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Single Mom Fights Child Care Cuts; But Who's Listening?

Amanda Vinicky

Low-income, working parents are fighting to once again get help from the state for childcare.

Since July, Illinois has drastically reduced who's eligible for the state's daycare assistance program. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner made the change, he says, to save money.

For nearly two hours at a recent hearing in Springfield Tuesday, daycare providers and parents, like Chante Morrison, pressed Rauner to cancel the rollbacks. Morrison's a single mother of two girls from Galesburg.

"I wanna work; my children need to know that you have to work to succeed," she said.

But Morrison says she had to quit her job at Wal-Mart; at $10.30 an hour, it was too much to qualify for daycare help. Without the subsidy, she says she can't afford to send her daughters to daycare while she works.

"He needs to rethink this," she said of the governor. "Because instead of making it to where there's a lot of people working ... there is (sic) people having to quit. And basically we're going on public assistance which is taking more money from the state, which you're saying we don't have."

But only one legislator was spotted at the hearing to listen to Morrison's story -- Democratic Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria, already a key supporter of their cause and sponsor of legislation that would reverse Rauner's changes and take away the governor's authority to make such cutbacks in the future.

Despite the low attendance by policy-makers, Gordon-Booth says the hearing was still helpful, as "the more that the entire community understands what this is doing -- not just to the families that access the program, but to the individuals that own these childcare facilities, to the teachers that work in them, to the business community that employees individuals that rely on the child care assistance program."

Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Chicago. After all of the testimony is collected, and will be available to legislators.

The new, tougher standards have been in place since July; now it's a matter of whether the rollbacks will become permanent. Votes could be coming as soon as Oct. 20, when the Illinois House returns. If the full legislature doesn't pass a law curtailing the governor's rule-making authority, a bipartisan legislative panel will get the chance later this fall to weigh in.

Previous attempts to overturn the rules have failed, with Republican lawmakers voting in favor of the reductions.

The new eligibility levels mean a parent working a full-time, minimum wage job exceeds the income standards.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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