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Damage to Women and Families Persists in Wake of Budget Impasse

Chicago Foundation for Women, Voices for Illinois Children, and Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning today released a new report on the impact of Illinois’ budget impasse on women and children. The report, titled “Damage Done: The Impact of the Illinois Budget Stalemate on Women and Children,” was prepared by Voices for Illinois Children and Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning. Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, including low-income women of color and their children, continue to bear the burden of the state’s two-year impasse, which delayed payment of contracts to social service providers and resulted in significant cuts in staff and services that cannot be quickly replaced.

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Illinois Must End the Budget Crisis and Target Investments for Low-income Parents of Color and their Children

With only three scheduled veto session days remaining and money from the state’s “stopgap” budget set to run out at the end of December, Illinois lawmakers need to act urgently to restore critical programs that strengthen young parents and their children. This week, Voices for Illinois Children released a new report highlighting the damage the ongoing budget crisis is having on the economic security of Illinois’ children and families and makes recommendations to raise the necessary revenue to balance the budget and fully restore programs that help communities thrive.

The first five years of life are the most important period of growth for a child, but persistent poverty can harm young children and set back their likelihood of success in school and in their adult life. With one in 10 Illinois children under six living in deep poverty (50 percent of the poverty level, or roughly $12,125 for a family of four) and four in ten living below twice the poverty rate ($48,500 for a family of four), the urgency of investing in programs that counter the negative effects of poverty are paramount.

The current “stopgap” budget fails to provide adequate funding for many important programs that support young parents to pursue their education and provide their children with high-quality childcare and programs that support their well-being. As a result, several programs, including the Monetary Award Program which provides grants for low-income college students, Adult Basic Education and Literacy programs, and home visiting programs that support child well-being will not have any funding available at the start of 2017.

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To fully support young parents in Illinois and create opportunities for their children and families, Illinois must:

• Restore eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program to 185 percent of the poverty level and to parents pursuing a college degree full time.
• Restore state investments in higher education and MAP grants.
• Target funding to areas that improve educational outcomes for low-income parents of color.
• Restore Safe from the Start funding and increase investments in children’s mental health.

Critical federal home visiting program extended

We applaud the six-month extension of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program through March 2015. The six-month extension, which was passed by Congress by strong bipartisan votes this week, provides an opportunity for early childhood advocates to develop a longer-term strategy for funding the program. The MIECHV program had been set to expire at the end of September.

Home visiting programs use evidence-based approaches that are voluntary and supportive of at-risk families with young children or those expecting children. Home visitors develop an ongoing relationship with the families, promote healthy child development, and provide resources and supports tailored to the individual family’s needs.

This investment in home visiting programs ultimately increases family self-sufficiency and saves taxpayers money by improving children’s healthy development, increasing positive parenting strategies, and reducing other public costs.

Voices has a strong history of advocacy for home visiting programs and co-chairs the Home Visiting Task Force of the Early Learning Council that designed and oversees implementation of an inter-agency collaboration that now involves around 300 programs in Illinois and which administers the federal program in our state.

Miller testifies before House Human Services Appropriations Committee

EMiller testifying House DHS

Last week, Emily Miller, Voices’ director of policy and advocacy, testified before the Illinois House Human Services Appropriations Committee. She urged Committee members to prioritize cost-effective interventions and strategies that improve children’s lives and contribute to efforts to address the state’s short- and long-term fiscal stability.

She also reiterated the urgent need for lawmakers to maintain current tax rates in order to prevent draconian cuts to families who have already suffered from more than $1 billion in cuts. To improve long-term fairness and sustainability, she also urged Committee members put a constitutional amendment to allow a fair tax, where those with lower incomes pay lower rates and those with higher incomes pay higher rates.

You can read Emily’s full testimony below:

 

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