Cynthia Brown (far left) with children who attend her Little People Christian Daycare summer camp. (Below left): Faith Arnold speaks about her experiences during a community teach-in on July 30 in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Michael Romain.
“We’re here because our communities are being devastated by budget cuts to childcare, school homes, home care and other services, while banks and rich CEOs make off like bandits,” said Cynthia Brown, the owner of Little People Christian Daycare in Maywood.
Brown was among a group of about 30 people who got together in a shaded corner of LaFollette Park in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on a hot July 30 afternoon for a community teach-in. The idea for the gathering was hatched by the Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition of labor unions and community organizations. Most of the people at the park were females — teachers, paraprofessionals and childcare providers represented by SEIU Healthcare or the Chicago Teachers Union.
The outdoor session amounted to an hour-long lesson in an age-old power struggle — that between the capital-owning haves and the income-earning have-nots, with many of the afternoon’s ‘instructors’ putting personal testimonies and faces to what are often considered impersonal political and economic forces.
“One of the issues we see is there is a lot of money being left on the table, specifically money going to banks,” said Nathan Ryan, communications director for Grassroots Collaborative.
“Illinois gives millions of dollars away each year on the interest fees from bad financial deals. Two-thirds of the corporations in Illinois don’t pay income taxes. We think the wealthy should pay their fair share instead of going after our parks, libraries and schools.”
Many in attendance decried Gov. Bruce Rauner’s handling of the state’s budget crisis and his recent changes to the Department of Human Services’ (DHS’s) Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which provides subsidies for low-income parents to send their children to daycare.
The Rauner administration announced this month new, more restrictive guidelines for the CCAP program that are part of a comprehensive package of state spending cuts totaling more than $800 million. The restrictions were enacted after Rauner and state legislators failed to agree on a FY 2016 budget before the July 1 deadline.
“According to DHS, a new CCAP applicant has to be one of the following to be eligible for the program: a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipient; a teen parent enrolled full-time in elementary or high school or GED classes; from a family with a special needs child; or a working family with a monthly income up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level,” Progress Illinois reported on July 10.
Sandra Knight, the executive director for the YWCA, told the Daily Journal recently that the maximum income a family of two, meaning one parent and one child, can earn and still qualify for CCAP funds decreased from $2,456 a month to $664 a month.
Faith Arnold, the owner of Sun Children Home Daycare in Bellwood, told the teach-in crowd that the new regulations would affect her ability to enroll more children.
“It seems like we’re going to get funding for fiscal year 2016,” Arnold said. “That’s kind of bittersweet as a provider. Yes, it’s great to know we’re going to be compensated for the work we do […] but I don’t have any children who can come into the program!”
Arnold recalled the story of one of those parents who she said was denied a childcare subsidy because she’s going to start a job that pays her more than 50 percent of the federal poverty level.
“I had a situation where a mom needed care for her children, her two kids. She relocated up here from Atlanta, had a job waiting for her. She was referred to me by a friend of a friend who asked if I could help the parent. But I couldn’t help her, because she was about to make minimum wage. She didn’t qualify. So she came to see me Tuesday [of this week] and I told her I don’t know what to tell you. ‘What am I going to do,’ she said. She told me that she needed to know something, because she starts her job on Monday. ‘I need to know what to do with my children,’ she said. So she got on the bus yesterday and took her two babies back to Atlanta, Georgia to live with a family; hoping everything will be okay.”
Arnold, who at one point was so irate she needed to pause a few seconds to gather her thoughts, said she believes the state’s budget crisis isn’t about wasteful spending; rather, it’s about an unjust lack of revenue.
“I’m highly upset about this. Gov. Rauner has not asked his wealthy billionaire friends to take a concession! All we ask is for them to just pay their fair share of taxes! That’s all we ask! That would give us the revenue we need.” VFP
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