Ald. John Arena pshes for the governor to revive a program providing child care to low-income parents

Ald. John Arena pshes for the governor to revive a program providing child care to low-income parents

By Ted Cox | November 9, 2015 12:22pm

CITY HALL — Gov. Bruce Rauner made major concessions on child care Monday just as protesters were demanding the revival of a state program for low-income parents at City Hall.

Faced with pressure on his action to severely curtail a state program providing child care to low-income parents, Rauner announced Monday that he’d amend an emergency order imposed this summer and revive what he called “an important program valued by members of both parties.”

Protesters, however, immediately insisted that Rauner’s compromise came at a reduced income level from what was previously set, and Ald. John Arena (45th) led calls for the General Assembly to go ahead with a measure to fully fund and revive the program in a vote set for Tuesday.

 Gov. Bruce Rauner sought to relieve pressure to revive a state program on child care.

Gov. Bruce Rauner sought to relieve pressure to revive a state program on child care. View Full Caption

DNAinfo/Ted Cox

“We’re gonna continue to put pressure on the governor to make sure we get things right,” Arena said. Adding that he couldn’t comment on the details of Rauner’s announcement, he said, “Deal or no deal, we need to pass” a bill on the matter scheduled to be consider by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“I’m encouraged that the governor is trying to do something,” added Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th). “I’m not sure whether that’s enough.” He said that, if the program were not revived, it would “devastate my community.”

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said he expected the vote on the matter to proceed as scheduled Tuesday as “the best way to determine certainty.” He added, “It’s always better to have a law than a rule.”

“Now, at the 11th hour, and only after bipartisan public outcry across Illinois over the pain and suffering caused by cuts that have kicked 70,000 kids off child care, Bruce Rauner comes to the table,” said Keith Kelleher, president of the Service Employees International Union’s Healthcare Illinois. “His arbitrary actions, which should never have happened in the first place, show just why, deal or no deal, we still need Senate Bill 570 to pass tomorrow, to remove the ability for a governor, Democrat or Republican, to use unchecked executive power to destroy by rule those programs created by statute.

“Since the governor apparently now realizes the needless pain caused by his actions, we call on him to expedite the rules returning children to the program instead of figuring out ways to use them as political pawns,” Kelleher added.

The protest and announcement came simultaneously Monday morning after what had clearly been talks behind the scenes over the weekend.

Ald. Will Burns (4th) abruptly postponed an Education Committee meeting on the matter that was to take place Monday, reportedly as Mayor Rahm Emanuel was pushing for the governor to make concessions.

The protest, however, went on, with Tosha Kelly, a child-care provider in Auburn Gresham, decrying what she called “Rauner’s devastating child-care enrollment cuts” imposed this summer in the first days of the state budget impasse with the General Assembly. According to Kelly, 70,000 children, or about 90 percent of the registered users statewide, lost child care since Rauner imposed the rules change July 1.

Rauner issued a statement Monday saying that “as a result of bipartisan discussions with legislators concerning the future of the Child Care Assistance Program,” it would be revived for those with incomes at 162 percent of the federal poverty level. The program sets minimal child-care co-pays for eligible parents, and Rauner said those would “remain intact.”

Trenton Wooten, of the Worker Center for Racial Justice, said the child-care co-pay for his 4-year-old had more than doubled from $50 a month to $110 during the cutoff.

Marisol Nieves, owner of Little Einstein’s Daycare in Bucktown, said previous eligibility levels had been set at 185 percent of the poverty level, and that the cuts had dropped the number of children taking advantage of it at her center.

“Low-income families need help because they cannot work without the help of this program,” Nieves said.

The governor insisted in his statement that he would create a “bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program,” with the presumption that eligibility would return to the 185 percent figure once he reaches a final budget deal with the General Assembly.

Brown, however, made it clear Monday that Madigan would pursue something more certain than relying on the governor’s concessions.

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