Pritzker supports child care investments during Madison County visit

ALTON — Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited the Kreative Kids Learning Center in Alton Friday morning to promote the state’s child care investments in the Metro East.

Pritzker said it is his mission to make Illinois “the best state for families raising young children.”

“We’ve been providing $570 million in child care restoration grants to over 5,000 child care centers since last summer, helping them stay afloat through these challenging times,” Pritzker said.

Of that amount, $19.5 million was given to over 209 providers in Madison and St. Clair counties. According to Pritzker, the grants have worked, with 30% fewer centers closing last year than on average from 2016 to 2018.

Kent Neuber, CEO of the Kreative Kids Learning Center at 121 W. Elm St., said he appreciates Pritzker’s support and the Child Care Restoration Grant program.

“Without those funds, our center would have had to either eliminate and lay off staff or greatly reduce services and leave many of the children without quality care,” said Neuber, who presented Pritzker with a giant thank you card made by the center’s children.

State Rep. Amy Elik, R-Fosterburg, said she has had multiple conversations about the hurdles child care providers have faced since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s vital for our state, for the Metro East, and for families that we stay open for business and our workers head back to work,” Elik said. “In order to return to work, parents need access to quality, affordable child care for their families.”

Earlier this week, Pritzker and Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou announced a series of investments to further access to child care for parents seeking to reenter the workforce while simultaneously aiding child care providers and their employees. This fall, providers will be able to apply for their share of $300 million in grant funding to recruit and obtain additional workers.

“Our work to uplift this sector didn’t begin with the pandemic,” Pritzker said. “I’ve spent decades before I became governor finding ways to make quality child care and early child care more affordable and available.”

Pritzker said his first budget contained the largest early childhood appropriations in Illinois history. Earlier this summer, Pritzker’s administration delivered its third payment rate increase to child care providers. Additionally, he said, eligibility has been increased by 25% so that more families benefit from the child care assistance program.

“As families incomes rise, we don’t want them to simply fall off the cliff because they’re making more money,” Pritzker said.

Starting Oct. 1, parents looking for work in Illinois will be able to access three months of child care assistance.

“When our youngest families succeed, our whole state reaps the benefits,” Pritzker said. “That’s the Illinois our residents deserve.”

Hou said that, under Pritzker, the early childhood system is “truly transforming” and recognizes accessing quality child care is the “best way to support working parents and to grow and nurture young minds.”

“It’s good for the now, it’s good for our recovery and it’s good for the future of our state,” Hou said.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said the administration is sending a message to all families in Illinois.

“We see you, we hear you and we will always be there for you,” Stratton said. “Right now, families need that more than ever.”

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September 17, 2021 at 04:51PM

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