Illinois childcare providers at risk of shutdown due to $300 million shortfall

Sadie Lang, 4, of Sycamore, plays at the sand table Friday at Campus Child Care. The center “predominately” serves student families, said Christine Kipp, director of NIU Campus Child Care.

By Alexander Chettiath

Valarie Redmond, graduate counseling student and single mother, said she doesn’t know what she’ll do if childcare providers in DeKalb County close due to a budget shortfall.

Redmond is one of at least 200 NIU students using the Department of Human Services’ Childcare Assistance Program, which provides low-income families with affordable childcare, said Susan Petersen, executive director of Community Coordinated Childcare, 155 N. Third St., No. 300.

Providers in DeKalb County using the childcare program could close in as soon as three weeks unless the General Assembly passes a $278 million supplemental budget, according to Illinois Action for Children’s website.

Redmond’s daughter, Alexandria Geiger, has been in the program since she was three months old, starting with in-home assistance until the age of 2 and then moving to a childcare center. Redmond takes classes in the evening along with an internship and works 15 hours a week while using the Children’s Learning Center’s services for her daughter.

“I have to do what I need to do in order to make a better life for my child, and that’s why childcare is really important because I can see how it will impact my journey and success if I don’t have this resource,” Redmond said.

Childcare providers are in danger because of a $300 million budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2015 and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s unwillingness to provide supplemental funding, said Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley.

“This is one of many areas of the budget that has a shortfall,” Pritchard said. “There’s $1.2 billion overall that agencies say they need to finish the fiscal year. This time of year, for the past four or five years, we have run out of money and the organizations have come to the Legislature and said, ‘We are going to close our doors if you don’t pay us more money’ and we pass supplemental budgets. Gov. Rauner doesn’t want to do that. What he wants to do is move money around within the budget.”

The Department of Human Services funds six centers in DeKalb County, including the Children’s Learning Center, Child Development Lab, the Early Childhood Center, Land of Learning Child Care Center, Once Upon a Time Child Care and Campus Child Care at NIU.

“We are predominately serving student families; they are the ones who tend to be eligible for the Childcare Assistance Program,” said Christine Kipp, director of Campus Child Care. “That is why it so vital to what we do. Our main mission is to serve students.”

There are about three more weeks of funds that may be supplied to the state’s childcare providers, and then programs will run on reserves for about a month, said Judith Gethner, executive director of Illinois Partners for Human Service.

“There is money in the state,” Gethner said. “We have funds that have money sitting in them for various reasons that we could go and take money out of those funds and use for these purposes. And in the past we have done that. We have to work out a solution as to how much and by whom.”

Kipp said she anticipates Rauner will find funding for childcare.

“The governor has addressed that he wants to find the funds,” Kipp said. “So, at this point I am trusting that will happen. We are hopeful that it will be taken care of. We are keeping a close eye on it at this point.”