Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he wants to invest in programs for children, and the budget he proposed this week called for increases in early childhood services and the Child Care Assistance Program.
Child advocacy groups applauded the proposals, including a $30 million boost to the CCAP program to help lower-income families pay for child care, and a $100 million increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant. The block grant for helps at-risk families with supports like home visits, parent education and preschool.
Maria Whelan, president of Illinois Action For Children, called the governor's plan positive.
“Particularly given the given the really, really tough economic times that our state is in, we are supportive of the budget address, and we look forward to working in a new way with the Pritzker administration.”
CCAP was cut by then-Governor Bruce Rauner in 2015, reducing eligibility by 90 percent. Now, eligibility has expanded so that a family of four can qualify if their household earnings aren’t higher than $47,000 or so. Under the governor’s plan, a family of four could earn $51,500 and still be eligible. Pritzker estimated that 10,000 more children could be covered.
At least one group says there is more to be done.
Therapists in the Department of Human Services' early intervention program provides services for children with developmental delays. Those employees haven’t had a raise in 11 years, said Ireta Gasner, vice president for Illinois policy at Ounce of Prevention Fund.
She says the low salaries result in a smaller number of workers available to help children.
“In tough budget times to maintain Human Services program funding is really important, but we do want to to keep working around whether or not we might not be able to make some investments back into those programs, basically,” Gasner said.
Another DHS project in which home visits are made to new and expecting parents hasn’t had an increase in a decade, she said.