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As the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules failed to find the three-fifths majority necessary to block Governor Rauner’s devastating blow to the Child Care Assistance Program, Senate Democrats called for immediate action on legislation revoking his hastily implemented rules, which have already left 2,000 needy families without affordable child care.
“It’s my hope that we will be able to send a strong message to those people who are doing exactly what we told them to do, which is get up every day and go to work or go to school, and that as a policy, we don’t turn children away,” said Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) while presenting Senate Bill 570 for a vote last week. Hutchinson is the lead sponsor of the legislation.
Rauner used a secretive emergency rulemaking process to circumvent both the General Assembly and public comment. His new eligibility requirements for child care assistance leave out an estimated 90 percent of new applicants who would have qualified for help before July 1 and will again if the Senate Democrats’ plan prevails. Under the Rauner rules, even most working parents making minimum wage are not eligible for assistance with child care. The average cost of care for an infant in Illinois is more than $12,000 per year.
The emergency rules took effect on July 1 and, without legislative action, will remain in effect for 150 days. JCAR, a legislative oversight committee that reviews executive branch rules, had an opportunity this morning to block Rauner’s move to decimate the child care program, but supporters fell short of the three-fifths majority they needed, as Republicans on the committee sided with the governor over working families. The Senate approved the measure restoring the existing eligibility standards last Wednesday; next, the House must vote on it before it goes to the governor.
“Emergency rules are getting put in place that undo the very fabric of things that help make Illinois a competitive and compassionate place,” Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) said in support of SB 570. “If we undo this child care program, we’re not only making it difficult for families to work, we’re undermining our whole effort to do preschool for all. It’s hugely problematic that by an emergency rule we’re undermining so much of what’s important.”
“What’s happened now is that the governor has made a policy decision to throw a huge number of families off of child care and is trying to advance it via an emergency rule,” Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said. Biss is the proposal’s chief co-sponsor. “That’s a bizarre decision for him to make… It is our prerogative to restore to the legislature the authority to guide policy on this question.”
Attached are audio files of Sens. Hutchinson, Steans and Biss from last week’s Senate debate on SB 570, which was approved 37-7