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Illinois legislators offer plans to help families with child care costs

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(The Center Square) – Illinois legislators on both sides of the aisle are offering plans they say will help families with child care costs.

Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation designed to provide financial relief to families with children enrolled in day care and pre-K programs through tax credits.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, filed Senate Bill 2717 to enact a new state tax credit she said will help offset some of the costs that parents incur for both preschool and child care.

“My particular bill was brought to us by a staff member and she has children in day care, and she says to me, ‘Did you know I can’t write-off the expense of my child being in a pre-K program, or an early learning program, but I can write off a portion of day care,’ so it disincentives families to have their children in a learning program because there’s not a tax credit to support it,” said Rezin.

Senate Bill 3104 from state Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, says qualifying families would receive a state tax credit equal to 25% of the current federal child care tax credit for each child. Tracy said she doesn’t know how much that could cost the state in revenue. Tracy said with a $52.7 billion budget, surely the state will be able to sacrifice for a revenue producer.

“I believe we can find some of that to allocate to this very important revenue producer. [The loss of revenue would] be hard to estimate from the Department of Revenue because of the varying numbers,” Tracy said. “I will say we are trying to promote women in the workforce as much as we can in these bills.”

Tracy said her and Rezin’s bill will provide much-needed relief for Illinoisans who are struggling to keep up with the state’s high cost of living.

In a Senate committee hearing this week, state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, discussed her Senate Bill 3626 to extend eligibility periods for the taxpayer-funded Child Care Assistance Program. Nakisha Hobbs, CEO and founder of the youth social service organization It Takes A Village Family of Schools, said the organization is a network of early childhood centers across the city of Chicago. Their network serves about 1,000 children, according to Hobbs.

“The problem on the ground is that all of these funding streams, specifically the CCAP, has a less reliable eligibility period,” said Hobbs. “One year is really the maximum eligibility period and that’s cumbersome for programs and families because other funding sources like the Preschool For All, which is intent on making sure children are in the classroom with qualified staff, that’s a two-year program. This bill is asking that the CCAP eligibility periods be more aligned with other sources of funding.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for universal preschool in Illinois by 2027. According to Illinois Policy Institute, Pritzker wants to spend $440 million for universal preschool and other initiatives for children from low-income young households. Illinois currently spends $600 million on pre-kindergarten serving 89,000 children.

Hobbs said the measure would “provide stability for children between the ages of birth and five, which is when children’s brains are developing the most.”

“This, we believe, is a very easy fix to our system that will make a tremendous difference for programs that are attempting to deliver high-quality educational services as well as families,” Hobbs said. “There are instances where families lose their CCAP eligibility at the end of a year and families are asked to leave Preschool For All programs. The number one primary indicator of positive outcomes for children is continuity in care. We want to make sure the system that we are building allows children to experience continuity in care.”

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