Day care providers take budget hit

Day care providers take budget hit

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois' budget crunch is taking a toll on thousands of day care providers and families in a state-subsidized child care program, and it could last for several months.

The state Department of Human Services has informed child care providers it has no more money to pay them through June 30 for the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps pay day care costs for working and student families, and a payment delay is immediately in effect starting with April payments.

Providers were notified they shouldn't expect to be paid again until July after the Legislature approves the 2013 budget.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Januari Smith said the state needs $73.6 million to pay child care providers through the end of the fiscal year.

Additional funds to make up the shortfall have been requested from the General Assembly, but no more money has yet been forthcoming, said Kelly Kraft, a budget spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn.

"I had three mommies leave this morning crying," Paula Rebman, a longtime home day care operator in Urbana, said Thursday after being notified by the state.

Rebman said payments for half the eight children she provides care for at her home come through the state program.

With typical backlogs, Rebman said, she doubts she'll see any payments before August.

She plans to keep her day care home open and is struggling to keep the state clients she has, she said. But she's also told parents they'll have to come to some resolution with her.

"I can't work without pay and they can't go to work without care," she added.

The child care program subsidizes the cost of day care for eligible parents who are working or in school, and parents make a copayment depending on their income, according to Brenda Eastham, director of operations at the University of Illinois Child Care Resource Center.

There are 2,000 day care centers, both licensed and license-exempt, in the six counties (Champaign, Douglas, Vermilion, Iroquois, Macon and Piatt) in the UI center's service area, she said.

Kraft said the state is out of money to pay day care providers because they're paid from the same fund that pays the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and TANF has exhausted funds for the fiscal year.

Demand on TANF has grown, and federal law requires that TANF be paid first, she said.

There were more than 49,435 TANF cases in March 2012 — more than 7,000 more than there were in March 2011 — at a cost of more than $14.5 million, according to information provided by Human Services.

"That said, with child care, we are working diligently with the General Assembly to get this situation resolved," Kraft said.

In March alone, the state spent $77 million on the Child Care Assistance Program, according to Smith

One local mother of two, Jessica Simpson of Urbana, has already had to start thinking about some hard choices.

The SNAP outreach coordinator for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank and outreach coordinator at her church, Simpson says the state program pays half the cost of keeping her 3-year-old daughter at Rebman's home day care.

"If she doesn't get paid, then I have no day care. If I don't have day care, I can't work. So there are just going to be some hard choices that are going to have to be made in order for me to keep my child in day are so I can work and provide," she said.

Not only that, Simpson said, she's facing medical expenses.

"I would hate for it to become a choice between medicine and child care," she said.

Moving her child somewhere else is also a choice she doesn't want to face. Her daughter, born prematurely, is thriving in Rebman's care while she is at work, she said.

"When we found Miss Paula, it was like having a professional day care center. Her whole home is dedicated to the children," she said.

Rebman has high academic standards, but she also bakes cookies with the children, does project with them, has a back yard play area and parties for the kids and their families. And her daughter is very happy there, Simipson says.

"Miss Paula loves the children that she is connected with," Simpson added. She still has children that she has been with as a baby come back and visit her. She is just an amazing woman."

Eastham said the payment delay isn't the only bad news in store for parents on the state subsidy.

Eligibility has already been cut, from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 185 percent, and in Quinn's proposed budget, "they're talking about taking it down to 150 percent," she said.

For a family of four, the 2012 federal poverty level is $23,050 in annual income.

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jmh910 wrote on May 04, 2012 at 10:05 am

I feel for the honest families who depend on state childcare payments... however, there are a lot of people who seriously abuse this program.  The state needs to more strictly monitor people who are receiving assistance.  I have personally known people who will get a job, just to qualify for child care, then quit the job as soon as its approved.  They continue to get free daycare and choose not to work again until they have to resubmit their information to CCRS. Then they get another job and repeat the process.  There are also households that are masquerading as 'single parent' households when the parents aren't married.  In reality, the mother and father are both living in the home, both working, and contributing income.  However, one of the parents claims a different address so their income isn't considered.  The childcare gets paid for because the state is only looking at one income, when in reality the income is much, much more than being reported.  The problem isn't the people who really need childcare assistance so they can work, it's the dishonest people who are scamming the system.

The state should put a little more effort into weeding out the scam artists, so that honest, hardworking parents and daycare providers aren't bearing the financial hardship.


davidemcginn wrote on May 04, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I for one am sick and tired of people crying about the free handout they are getting is getting cut out, Here is a concept don't have kids you can not afford. The state is not your personal bank for your bad choices, these people run to uncle sam everytime they want something for free. If i don't  have the money for something I don't run to the state whining about wanting another freebie.Personal responability people..

jmh910 wrote on May 04, 2012 at 1:05 pm

If you're referring to people having children and having financial problems as 'bad choices', that is a stereotypical generalization that all people who get childcare assistance are just moochers.

What about a married woman whose husband died and left her with two kids?  Is that her bad choice to not know her husband would die while their children were still in need of childcare?

What about the woman who is going to college to get her nursing degree so that she can be independent and self sufficient in the future, and not have to use government assistance again? Her child's father walked out and makes no financial contribution to raising the child.  Is it her personal responsibility to know that he was going to abandon them?

Saying 'don't have kids you can't afford' is ridiculous.  How about, have some ambition not to live off welfare the rest of your life. It was setup to get people on their feet, to better themselves, not for a lifetime dependency.  Unfortunately, as said before, a lot of people abuse it. Why pay for something when you can get it for free? 

Also, I don't receive childcare assistance, I pay for it out of my own pocket.  It's  expensive, even at the cheapest rates. I pay more for childcare than I do on my mortgage.  I can completely empathize how someone with much less income than I have, would struggle tremendously without the help.

anotherparent wrote on May 04, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I get so sick of people talking about not having children you can't afford.  You DO NOT know the situation of all of these people.  Maybe they were fine 5 years ago when they started to have a kid and then they lost their jobs or their spouse died and their situation has changed.  As the previous poster stated this system, like all others, is misused by some people.  But that does not change the fact that by taking this away you are putting children at risk.  What happens to these families now?  Do they not work because they can't afford the daycare out of pocket and then they have no income and the children are in a bad situation because they have no home or food or because the parents are stressed to a breaking point or do the parents leave them somewhere that is not safe because they still need to work.  So do they leave them with someone that is not licensed because that is cheaper and something happens to the children and then it is the parents fault because they left them there?  Then what happens when these children start kindergarten and they are behind because their parents could not afford the daycare centers so they left them somewhere that did not provide the foundation needed to be successful in kindergarten. 

I agree there are problems with the system but I do not think the children should pay the penalty for their parents.

cbrads334 wrote on May 04, 2012 at 4:05 pm
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As long as you agree to allowing women & families to have a CHOICE in birth control and abortion rights, perhaps.

Not everyone 'works' the system.  Death, disease, or illness of a family member are among many reasons people NEED assistance.  Would you rather they stay home and continue in a life of poverty and benefits?  Not everyone has the same advantages or opportunities.  Some people work very hard and then are decimated by some catastrophe--  nature or circumstances don't always go as planned.

Quit being so judgmental of others, please.  I know one person who depends upon childcare assistance who is on the way to becoming independent of benefits through career schooling.  Yes, some people do abuse these programs.  I'd wager that it isn't any of a higher rate than crooks who steal on Wall Street or the rogue bankers who have profited from all of us.  Perhaps a little more regulation and oversight would solve both ends of the problem.

cbrads334 wrote on May 04, 2012 at 4:05 pm
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I'm sick and tired of paying higher insurance premiums, for characters like Rush Limbaugh, to pay for his Viagra.  Yet folks like you don't want to pay for birth control to prevent these kinds of situations in the first place; force the poor to bear children they can't afford and perhaps don't even want, then refuse any help when the children are born.

What's wrong with this picture?  Duh.

Disclaimer:  I was on welfare for 3 yrs. when my children were born due to a non-supportive father/partner.  I used Medicaid (and my own paid-for insurance when I went to work part-time) and Food Stamps.  I worked hard and became independent myself by getting a good UNION job so I didn't need benefits any longer.  Most people DO want merely a 'hand up' not a 'hand out'. 

I'm sick and tired also of the Fox 'news' mentalilty of people.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 05, 2012 at 8:05 am

Good comments. 

GRose wrote on May 04, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I feel so sorry for the children and parents this will affect.  Everyone has a different story to why they are in this situation and we shouldn't judge.

We currently have two children in daycare and, even with the best planning, it is still very tough.  We pay 1370 per month and it will go up to 1570 per month in February.  This is more than our mortgage and car payments combined. 

When I was pregnant I called Every Single licensed daycare in Champaign- it took me two weeks of nonstop calling.  We scheduled appointments with about a dozen and found the best daycare for us which luckily was an affordable inhome that only cared for children under 2.  We knew that we would need a new daycare when our child turned two but already had a few inhomes in mind before our second was born.  Well it turned out our oldest did great in an inhome daycare as a baby but really needed a more structured environment as a toddler.  For his sake we found a wonderful daycare center but that came at a higher cost which makes life a little tough.

It just goes to show with all the planning in the world you can't be ready for it all.  We are fortunate we can still find a way to afford daycare even if it means no vacations or any extras for a few years.  I just feel horrible for the families this will affect.

sameeker wrote on May 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm

When a man fathers a child, he is told to "take responsibility". The responsibility involves paying teh mother cash even if he is left with nothing to live on. The state don't care if he gets to see his children or have an authoritative role in raising them. It is all about money.

My point here is that women need to start taking responsibility too. They chose to be a mother so let them pay the cost and deal with it like the fathers have to.