(The Center Square) – The state is pouring more money into the early childhood sector in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Human Services announced that $300 million in new relief grants will be made available to child care providers across the state to help recruit and retain workers. That brings the state’s child care pandemic relief grant total to more than $1 billion since the pandemic began.
To help recruit and retain staff, at least 50% of the grants must be invested in new personnel and workforce initiatives, with a focus on increasing compensation and benefits.
Applications for the newest round of funding are due in early January, with funding beginning to flow in February 2022 ad through January 2023.
The funding will support child care providers with about $25,000 per classroom per year, child care group homes with $15,000 per year, and child care homes with about $10,000 per year.
Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, said Illinois is spending money on programs like no other state.
“I look around us, whether it is Wisconsin or Indiana or Iowa or where ever, and I don’t see what we have here in Illinois,” Peters said. “This is an epic level of investment, an epic level of support.”
Some have questioned Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s power on how to dole out billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief money. His team said federal rules allow the governor to tap into the Illinois American Rescue Plan funds without an appropriation from the General Assembly. During budget talks last spring, Democrats in control in Springfield created a fund to give the governor authority over how to spend the money.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said investment in early childhood programs is crucial because it is important that Illinois children get an early start.
“I always compare it to the housing developers,” Ford said. “There is no doubt if you don’t develop a house right, one day you are going to find out that the house has problems. It is the same thing with child care and the development of a child.”