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Illinois announces childcare assistance for essential workers

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced an expansion of eligibility to support essential workers’ child care needs and an increase in financial support for emergency child care centers and homes at his daily COVID-19 press briefing on Sunday.

Effective April 1st, all essential workers in health care, human services, essential government services, and essential infrastructure now qualify for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.

Pritzker said the state will cover most of the cost of care provided by emergency child care centers and homes.

This expansion of eligibility includes those working as nurses and doctors, supporting staff in hospitals, grocery store clerks and food producers.

“We have essential workers and healthcare professionals who can’t stay home with their kids because they are heroically going out to do their jobs, which are vital for public safety and to make sure other families can get the food and gas and pharmacy goods they may need,” Gov. Pritzker said. “Our essential workforce deserves to know their kids are safe and cared for in a small and affordable group setting.”

Full details and applications for assistance are available on the Department of Human Services (IDHS) website DHS.illinois.gov/helpishere and coronavirus.illinois.gov.

For emergency child care centers and homes, the state will be paying enhanced reimbursement rates effective April 1st.

The enhanced reimbursement rate is 30 percent above the usual pay rate.

Officials said the change seeks to reflect the additional costs of providing care in smaller groups.

Child care centers that are interested in re-opening as emergency child centers are able to apply for a permit through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Information is available on the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development website.

Home child care providers do not need a permit and can serve up to 6 children.

This effort builds on previous initiatives expanding financial relief to child care providers across Illinois.

The state developed a simple waiver process to allow child care providers to be paid for all of their enrolled children in the Child Care Assistance Program for March and April so that child care staff could continue to receive pay through this crisis. The state also reduced parent co-payments in April and May to $1 per month to relieve cost burdens on parents and to make sure that providers don’t miss out on this important revenue. 

In order to educate providers on the support available for small businesses in the federal CARES Act, GOECD is providing a webinar the morning of Monday, April 6 for providers. For more information, providers can visit www2.illinois.gov/sites/OECD/Pages/COVID-19.aspx.

The state established the Emergency Child Care program to ensure there would be safe child care homes and centers, with smaller group sizes, to care for children of essential workers. Over 550 centers have received the Emergency Child Care permit. Over 1,500 home child care providers have reported that they are still providing care, many of them on the critical night and weekend shifts that are so necessary for essential workers.

Last week the state also announced one-time stipends to providers. 1,100 homes and centers have already applied. Child care providers that are interested in applying should contact their local Child Care Resource & Referral agency, or download the application from coronavirus.illinois.gov.

The state is providing these resources to child care providers because it recognizes that it is critical to safeguard the financial stability of providers until they are ready to serve families again when it is safe for them to fully re-open.

Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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