Although Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration reversed some of its cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program in November, a number of Illinois families and providers are still being impacted by the changes that remain in effect.
"It's having a huge impact," Jennifer Frey with the Rochester-based Beginning Steps Child Development Center told The State Journal-Register. "The state wants us to excel. But without the income, it makes it difficult to live up to the standards of excelling.
The child care center, Frey said, is unable to fill 20 open slots as a result of the administration's changes to CCAP, which helps low-income working families afford day care.
On July 1, when the state entered the new fiscal year without a budget, the administration implemented stricter CCAP eligibility parameters and increased parent co-pays.
As part of the administration's cuts, a working family could have a monthly income of only up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for CCAP. Previously, new applicants had been eligible for CCAP if they earned up to 185 percent of the poverty level.
In November, the administration lifted the income eligibility threshold to 162 percent of the federal poverty level. The administration also kept the higher parent co-pays in place.
With the program changes in effect, CCAP enrollment decreased by 48,000 from July through December of last year, compared to the same time period in 2014, the newspaper reported.
There are currently an estimated 32,000 children eligible for CCAP under the administration's most recent guidelines that have not been enrolled, according to Illinois Action for Children's Maria Whelan.
"We think there are lots of discouraged parents who aren't applying," she told the newspaper.
The Rauner administration says it intends to raise CCAP's income eligiblity threshold above 162 percent once there has been an agreement on a balanced state budget.