Published reports indicate that Illinois Governor Quinn’s office may soon announce extraordinary, mid-year (FY11) cuts in human services funding in the order of $400 million. There are published reports that the child care assistance program (CCAP) alone could be slashed by $100 million.
Cuts of this magnitude would cause devastating cuts in services under any circumstances. However, the effect of these cuts would be greatly magnified by the fact that there would be only four months left in FY11 when the cuts take effect. This means that services would have to be cut by three times as much as they would have been cut at the start of the fiscal year to obtain comparable savings. Looking to the future, the service levels after these mid-year cuts would likely be the baseline for future budgets.
Just what effect would the FY11 mid-year cuts under consideration have on program services? As of December 2010, there were approximately 188,000 children in the CCAP. A $100 million cut in the CCAP's budget for the remaining four months of FY11 would be approximately a one-third cut in the CCAP's budget. The number of kids affected, and exactly how they would be affected, would depend on how the cut was implemented. But, the straight math, for estimation purposes, is that at least 63,000 children would have to be cut from the program over the remainder of FY11 to save $100 million.
One strong possibility is that intake would be stopped. This would mean that when a low-income single parent gets a job, she would no longer be eligible for the child care assistance she needs to get her child into quality care and make it possible for her to work. An estimated 7,000 to 8,000 children per month would be unable to access child care assistance if intake is frozen. Illinois has never instituted a waiting list since the CCAP began in 1997.
Cutting child care assistance is bad public policy all the way around. It is about the worst policy decision there is in terms of killing jobs during a recession with unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent. Every dollar of child care assistance both makes it possible for a low-income single parent to work and pays the wages of a child care worker. It also has the third important benefit of enhancing the life prospects of the child receiving care. Let’s hope the Governor and his advisers step back from the precipice and decide not to proceed with the threatened cuts to child care and other vital human services.