The Illinois House failed to pass a measure, SB 570, Tuesday that would have restored full funding for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Gov. Bruce Rauner changed the eligibility requirements for the program via an emergency rule over the summer after he and the state legislature failed to come to an agreement on a state budget for 2016. The bill the House voted on Tuesday sought to return the funding and eligibility requirements back to the original parameters while also preventing such unilateral decisions to be made by the governor in the future.
On Monday, however, Rauner decided to pull back a bit on his draconian cuts to the program by lifting the income eligibility threshold to 162 percent of the federal poverty level, after he reduced it to 50 percent of the poverty level. The original eligilibity threshold for the program prior to Rauner's emergency rule was 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The administration also said Monday that it is keeping current parent co-pays in place, adding that "other eligibility and restrictions will also be lifted pending further review and legislative consultation."
Rauner's administration noted that the decision was meant to preempt what could come from a vote to bring back full funding for CCAP.
"This bipartisan agreement will allow us to avoid the unintended consequences and costs that SB 570 would have brought. By working together, we will be able to bring financial stability to an important program valued by members of both parties," a statement from Lance Trover, a Rauner spokesman, reads.
Meanwhile, some activist organizations are detailing their displeasure with Tuesday's House movement on the measure, which failed to pass by one vote.
"Governor Rauner has chosen to advance his political agenda by holding children and vulnerable Illinois families hostage," said Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel via statement. "He has given a reprieve to some of the hostages through his rules change announced on Monday but without the passage SB 570 Governor Rauner maintains a free hand to take more hostages, throwing the lives of tens of thousands of Illinois families across the state into uncertainty. Meanwhile, Rauner continues to be allowed to pay out millions to well-connected Wall Street banks with clockwork regularity. We need legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle to work in a bipartisan way to check the Governor's power and choose policies that value stability for Illinois families higher than the stability of Wall Street profits."
Voices for Illinois Children released the following statement in response to the House's failure to pass the bill:
For months, Voices for Illinois Children has urged lawmakers to vote 'yes' on SB570 to ensure that access to quality, affordable child care is acknowledged as a permanent priority in Illinois.
Unfortunately for Illinois children and families, a group of lawmakers failed to make children and working families a permanent priority today, instead choosing to vote 'no' on SB570 and to prevent the bill from receiving the number of votes necessary to pass.
Gov. Rauner recently acknowledged what advocates have insisted since the devastating July 1 cuts to child care occurred: support for child care is not a partisan issue. Ensuring access to affordable, quality child care for working families is not, and should never be, a political fight. As a program, child care empowers low- and middle-income mothers and fathers to reach higher so they can enter and remain in the middle class. And it ensures that while mom and dad are working, children are receiving the early childhood education that sets them up for success when they enter school.
Despite SB570's failure, the deal Gov. Rauner and lawmakers reached to restore eligibility for child care to families at or below 162 percent of the federal poverty level ensures that some relief from the July 1 cuts will be felt immediately. That is a good thing for children and families. As long as the Governor follows through on his commitment to fully restore eligibility to 185 percent of the federal poverty level upon passage of a budget, the system will be restored.
It is important to note that throughout negotiations on SB570, the Governor asserted that it is vital he retain his rulemaking authority, which he used to exact the cuts to child care he initiated on July 1, 2015.
The Governor insists that maintaining his authority to enact emergency rules is vital to his office. Moving forward, he must accept the responsibility that comes with that authority. When drastic, unreasonable changes are made with extreme and harsh consequences without input from lawmakers or advocates, that authority is misused, and it does not go unnoticed.
As long as the Governor and lawmakers honestly assess the tremendous value of investing in children, families and communities, and commit to carefully considering the impact policy and budget decisions have on affected populations, a fully funded year-long budget deal can be achieved.