Day cares struggling with funding dilemma
By Bob Okon email@example.com May 8, 2012 9:48PM
Latoya Campbell leads a group of children in July at There’s Fun in Learning Early Childcare Center, a Joliet provider that could be forced to close if state funds are denied. | File photo
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:51AM
Day care providers are getting a scare for a second year in a row as the state again has threatened to stall funds provided for children of low-income families.
State officials now say the matter is getting resolved.
But child care providers like Carla Poindexter can only wait so long.
Poindexter already told parents that she planned to close her There’s Fun in Learning Early Childcare Center in Joliet last week. Then, she heard the Legislature would approve a measure to restore funds in the program, and the money would come through.
“If it does not pass, we will have to close,” said Poindexter, who went through the same dilemma in July 2011 before the state put funds back into the Child Care Assistance program.
Last week Poindexter and other providers who take in kids through the Child Care Assistance program were notified that state money for services rendered in April, May and June would not come until July.
That would hit hard depending on how much a day care depends on the state program for revenue. For Poindexter, the bill for 50 of the 62 children at There’s Fun in Learning Early Childcare Center is paid through the Child Care Assistance program.
In the Will County area, Child Care Assistance covers the cost of day care for about 6,600 children, said Amy Emerson with Child Care Resource and Referral, a Joliet-based agency that manages the program in a four-county region.
The idea of the program is to make it possible for low-income parents to go to work by covering their day care costs.
“I think you’d rather have people out working and contributing to the economy then sitting at home and using government benefits,” Emerson said.
Both last year and this year, however, the state pulled money out of the Child Care Assistance program to cover expenses that had to be paid by federal mandate. This year the money was moved to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. According to the governor’s office, there is a $74 million shortfall in the fund that covers both programs because of growing need.
“Federal law requires that TANF gets paid first,” said Kelly Kraft, budget spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn.
But Kraft said new money for Child Care Assistance is available if the state Legislature passes a pending bill that would fund the program.
“As long as the legislators legislate it, the governor plans to sign it,” she said. “The money will be available immediately.”
State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, met with day care providers this week. He said it’s not clear when a vote will come. To make things more confusing, McGuire, unlike Kraft, said it was not clear if the money would be available.
“There are no assurances because there are so many needs for scarce dollars right now,” he said.
Poindexter said she did not expect to face this problem again — at least not the threat of a three-month delay in payments from the state.
“We were not expecting it to be as bad as it is now,” she said.