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State ‘baby stepping’ toward post-pandemic life with child care assistance expansion

Pritzker announced that permanent policy change at a Decatur YMCA Tuesday afternoon and said the reduction in family payments, or copayments will likely reduce monthly child care costs for 80% of the state’s families.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces expansion of child care financial assistance for families and providers Tuesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces expansion of child care financial assistance for families and providers Tuesday.
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Families at or below the federal poverty line will now pay only $1 for child care, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday as part of a move to expand access to the services for Illinoisans as the state recovers from the pandemic.

Pritzker announced that permanent policy change at a Decatur YMCA Tuesday afternoon and said the reduction in family payments, or copayments, will likely reduce monthly child care costs for 80% of the state’s families.

“This will make Illinois among the best states in the nation in our support of child care needs for moderate-income families,” Pritzker said. “This expansion offers families, and particularly women, more flexibility as they try to navigate child care needs, returning to work, and health and safety as a priority.”

The state will also permanently cap family child care payments at 7% of their income and increase reimbursement rates for providers in the state’s child care assistance program by 3.5% to help providers as they recover from the pandemic.

Families who utilize that assistance program will remain eligible for support until their income surpasses 250% of the federal poverty level, up from 225%. Payments will increase on a sliding scale based on the family’s income, according to a news release announcing the expansion.

The federal poverty level for a family or household of four was set at $26,500 for 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Grace Hou, the secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, said the state needed to protect the “critically important system” of child care centers during, and after, the pandemic.

The changes will go into effect in “just a few days,” she said.

State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, said the reduction in child care costs, and the support for providers, will provide families and childcare centers a “plan that provides support and reinforcement.”

“During this global pandemic we have all had to lean on someone or something for support,” Turner said. “We are baby stepping our way toward our post-pandemic new normal in partnership with one another, and these improvements will significantly strengthen one of our most important partnerships — that of parent and child care provider.”