Illinois is dedicating at least $270 million in federal aid to fund grants for child care centers and providers who have lost revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the plan Wednesday. “Child care services are as much about a strong economy as they are about investing in our youngest generation. Both are critical aspects of building an Illinois that works for everyone,” he said.
While schools and nonessential businesses closed in March to comply with Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, 2,500 child care homes and 700 centers across the state remained open to care for children of essential workers. Those providers received one-time stipends from the state to reflect the additional costs of providing care in smaller groups, but “that wasn’t enough,” Pritzker said.
The additional funds will come from the state’s Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) Fund, which was created to receive federal aid that has already been appropriated and any additional federal aid approved for states by Congress.
Pritzker made the funding announcement at press conferences Wednesday in Moline and Rockford with U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, who is co-sponsoring legislation that would make $50 billion available for states to provide grants to child care providers.
“Before the pandemic hit, I promised Illinois would become the best state in the nation for raising young families,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “And I remain committed to that, though the path forward remains more complicated.”
The Child Care Restoration Grants are available for licensed child care homes and licensed center-based providers that are open and currently caring for children. Applicants must demonstrate the “business interruption” to their revenue due to the newly issued child care guidelines, which require programs to operate at about 30% reduced capacity and allow for social distancing.
“What has been necessary for public health hasn’t made financial sense,” Pritzker said of providers having to operate at reduced capacity while some of the costs associated with keeping doors open — including staff, rent and utility bills — remain unchanged.
“Because there is no blueprint for this program, (we’re) asking providers to tell us how to design the approach that best helps them reopen with smaller group sizes without imposing large tuition hikes,” Pritzker said.
Providers interested in applying for grants are urged to fill out an “intent to apply survey” by 5 p.m. June 19. Grants will be distributed in July.