The State Journal-Register
April 26, 2016
Rep. Litesa Wallace: Investing in day care aid is a smart move for Illinois
Today, when I look in the mirror, I see a strong and successful woman — an Illinois state representative with a doctorate from a major university. But not so many years ago, I was a newly single mother with a young son, wondering how I was going to pick up the pieces of my life, complete my education and build a brighter future for our little family.
It wasn’t easy trying to go to school, hold down a couple of part-time jobs and still be a good mother to my son. But I was able to make it all work because I had access to affordable child care that was partially subsidized by the state of Illinois.
Today, as an elected leader, I want to make sure that every parent in Illinois has that same opportunity to get an education and move forward in life. So I have sponsored a new bill, HB 5580, that will expand access to affordable child care for parents who are working low-wage jobs or who are in school or training programs.
Right now, Illinois parents who earn the minimum wage simply can’t afford to pay for good, reliable child care. Paying for day care for a 4-year-old would eat up more than half of a minimum wage worker’s annual income — and care for an infant would cost almost three-fourths of that worker’s paycheck.
Obviously, we can’t expect parents to pay more than half of their income for child care. On minimum wage, it’s a struggle just to keep a roof over your family and food on the table. Yet instead of making it easier for hard-working parents to access reliable day care so they can go to work or go to school, Gov. Bruce Rauner actually slashed Illinois’ child care assistance programs last summer.
It is just cruel to force low-income parents to pull their children away from trusted day care providers. But beyond that, it’s terrible public policy. When parents lose their child care assistance, they often have to quit their jobs. When parents can’t afford care, child care centers close their doors — putting even more people out of work. Between increased unemployment costs and decreased tax receipts, the state of Illinois actually winds up losing money when the governor cuts back on a smart, affordable program that helps to keep families afloat.
My bill will expand Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program to include families that make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Right now, the cutoff is 162 percent — which means that a single parent who makes more than $2,162 a month makes too much money to qualify for a partial child care subsidy. Under my bill, a parent who makes $4,000 a month will get a break on child care — not a full subsidy, just enough to help make ends meet. By raising the cutoff, we’ll expand this important program to include 75,000 more children, making it possible for their parents to go to work knowing that their children are in good hands.
My bill also will make child care assistance available to 5,000 children whose parents are in school, working toward certificates and degrees that will help them find better jobs in the future.
The state of Illinois made a good investment in my son and me during those tough years when I needed some extra help. Today, I am putting my education to work on behalf of working mothers and fathers in my own district and throughout Illinois. With HB 5580, we can make sure that every mother and father in our state has the same chance I had — to fulfill my potential, achieve my dreams and build a strong future for myself and my child.
— State Rep. Litesa E. Wallace, D-Rockford, represents the 67th District in the Illinois House.