A few short weeks ago, working families throughout Illinois learned that a state-sponsored child care program had run out of money.  Faced with the prospect of going without pay until the new state fiscal year begins in July, daycare centers and other child care services have been struggling to keep their doors open, and families have been struggling to find alternative ways to keep their children safe while they work, attend school, or go to job training programs. 

Their worries should soon be over, as the Illinois Senate has voted to shift money from another fund to ensure that families don’t lose access to child care.  The funding plan is on its way to the governor, who is expected to sign it quickly.

“Parents shouldn’t have to choose between working and caring for their children,” said State Senator Dave Koehler, who strongly supported finding a resolution to the problem.  “Child care is expensive, and it ultimately benefits everyone when we enable families to work or attend school and be contributing members of society.”

The funding crisis was caused by unexpected cost overruns in a separate program that helps struggling families.  The governor was forced to divert funds from the Child Care Assistance Program to keep that other program going.  The General Assembly has been working to find a solution that allows child care services to get paid without unbalancing the state budget.  Just this week, budget negotiators identified an unused fund with enough cash in it to pay for child care without eliminating other state services.

“Finding a balanced budget solution was the real challenge to solving this problem,” Koehler said.  “Once we found the resources we needed, everything has moved very quickly.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 2450, also authorizes the governor to spend more than $300 million from the Healthcare Provider Relief Fund to pay down the state’s backlog of Medicaid bills, which currently stands at about $1.5 billion.