Blog | June 30, 2020

Further federal assistance could help Illinois protect, revive the early childhood sector

Business, military, and law enforcement leaders call for strengthening early care and ed supports amid COVID-19 pandemic 

The COVID-19 crisis has spared no sector of business or aspect of public life since it overwhelmed Illinois just a few months ago, but one crucial, already tenuous system has suffered in particularly visible ways: child care. After a period in which child care was tightly restricted, for the kids of “essential” workers only, many other employees are just beginning to drop their kids off at reopening child care facilities with enhanced social-distancing and other public health precautions. While these precautions are necessary to help ensure the health and safety of children and providers alike, they do carry additional costs for providers who — in many cases – were already struggling before the pandemic with such factors as chronically low compensation.

Business, law enforcement, and military leaders throughout Illinois have spoken up in support of reviving child care and ensuring that it is adequately funded. The members of ReadyNation, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, and Mission: Readiness thank our state policymakers for largely preserving level funding for child care and other necessary early childhood supports — such as preschool, home visiting, and Early Intervention therapies — in the FY21 budget. However, it’s clear that this state budget framework, which taps some short-term revenues, will not be enough to sustain these vital supports for our state’s youngest learners throughout the entire fiscal year. More is needed, particularly from Congress – a level of government that already and admirably has shown it can take great steps to help protect these priorities.

More than ever before, it’s clear that child care is essential to safely reviving our economy. Working parents rely on child care providers to keep their children in safe, educational settings while they work to put food on their tables and roofs over their heads. We also know that quality preschool, voluntary home visiting, and Early Intervention therapies remain essential for giving many young children the boost they need during those critical years of development.

We must go further and help our state budget framework stand up for kids, families and our economy during the fiscal year that begins next month, or we risk a repeat of 2009.

Lisa Savegnago, President of Nameplate & Panel Technology in Carol Stream, on the need for additional, federal aid

What’s more, early care and education programs strengthen the very fabric of our society for years to come. Police leaders can testify that these research-proven supports set kids up for success in life, meaning these children are less likely to become involved in crime and less likely to rely on public assistance.

We must not retreat from our duty to these kids, and, at the same time, retreat from our commitment to long-term public safety and strong national security.

Michael Nerheim, Lake County State’s Attorney

Moreover, these initiatives are a necessary down-payment toward long-term national security. Only about 30% of Illinoisans ages 17-24 can qualify for military service; the remainder are ineligible due to any of a combination of these factors: poor nutrition, poor education, or involvement in crimes. High-quality early care and education is a proven method of helping mitigate these disqualifying factors, better setting kids up for any civilian career, educational, or military service path they may choose.

…individual states cannot adequately weather the loss of revenue triggered by the pandemic on their own. We hope, as federal leaders contemplate additional coronavirus response legislation, that they will further aid states’ ability to maintain our key sectors including early childhood efforts that ensure the long-term well-being of our communities.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Bill Enyart, U.S. Army, Belleville

With this in mind, state investments in early childhood care and education that hinge on such revenue alternatives as borrowing may not be enough to secure the preschool, child care, and birth-to-3 services that support our workforce strength, public safety and national security. The Illinois policymakers who crafted the FY21 state budget acknowledged as much, stressing the need for another injection of the kind of federal help that assisted with the establishment of child care for essential workers at the outset of this pandemic – a good example of state-and-federal cooperation that we can follow once again. Congress’ next steps are critical, and as we move to rebuild our communities and economy from the COVID crisis’ effects, further federal aid may be necessary to protect these critical resources to the state of Illinois.


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