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Many Illinois Child Care Providers Still Awaiting Payment from the State

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Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Illinois child care providers are getting by without a paycheck pending late payments from the state.

A technical delay at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is blocking payments to providers who care for children in low-income families who are part of the state’s child welfare program, designed to help parents being able to go to work or school with the help of subsidized childcare.

Payment issues are especially tough for providers who run small daycare centers, often out of the home, and who said they have no cash reserves to continue that work if they don’t get paid.

Home care provider LaTonya Mitchell has not been paid by the state since November, according to the state comptroller’s office.

“We want to be completed,” Mitchell said. “We also ask that a hardship payment be made to us for our overdue bills. We also ask that they (IDHS) guarantee a payment date.

Provider Debra Murphy said it’s a matter of respect.

“If they learn to give us respect,” Murphy said, “we’ll have everything we need because they’ll know in that sense that we want the same things they do when they get their check. We want to feed our families, we want to pay our bills on time, and we don’t want to incur late fees because of what someone else didn’t do. “Sorry” is not good. I can’t say ‘sorry’ to my debt collectors.”

Child care provider Tasia Barr said the delay is causing her to fall behind on her bills, including paying for the insurance that is required by the state to run a daycare.

“I received a cancellation letter, saying my daycare insurance was canceled because I was unable to pay my bills,” Barr said.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union representing Illinois child care workers, said late payments are a recurring problem. Members want IDHS to implement a new system to prevent this from happening again.

Agency spokespeople did not respond to questions, including whether IDHS is considering changing payment systems or offering hardship payments, how many people or day care centers are affected by the delays, what caused the problem, and how often that was a problem.

The agency did not provide details, instead sending a statement of apology.

“The IDHS Early Childhood Division is dedicating every available resource to address a backlog of payments to our suppliers that has built up over the past few weeks. We have corrected the technical issue, communicated with suppliers and are moving payments through the process as quickly as possible,” the statement read. your continued dedication to the children of Illinois.”

IDHS said the comptroller’s office has and will prioritize payments to childcare providers.

A spokesperson for the comptroller said on Tuesday that the office has no childcare bills waiting to be paid and there are no other backlogs of unpaid bills.

The problem may be in the process of being resolved. According to the comptroller’s database, while Mitchell hasn’t received state payments since before November, Murphy received $682.88 in November, $640.70 in December and $796.14 so far in January.

Barr said if the issue isn’t resolved, he wants the attorney general involved.

While she said she’s continuing to care for the kids, not getting paid could have a cascading effect.

“Stress relief is due to childcare providers,” Barr said. “Parents are free from stress because they have qualified day care centers to send their children to. I have two children here, and their parents are police officers, in Illinois community service. If we don’t stand together and make sure our payment system works for the child care system, then Illinois workers in Illinois just wouldn’t work.”

SEIU Healthcare Illinois child care providers are expected to negotiate a new contract with the state.

The union’s Jessica Schwalb said she could not specify what issues will be on the negotiating table, although issues such as late payments will certainly be used as examples of renewed investment in the childcare system.

“We will fight long-term to make it work for everyone because it’s clear the market has failed providers and it has failed parents,” Schwalb said. “It’s too expensive for parents and unaffordable for providers.”

Schwalb said many suppliers have gone out of business during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part due to low reimbursement rates.

Although some providers complain about delays in reimbursements, Governor JB Pritzker seemed to be OK with instilling more attention and funding for child care.

In his inaugural address earlier this month, Pritzker signaled second-term goals include expanding child care and making kindergarten available to all Illinois children.

“The research is clear,” Pritzker said. “Quality childcare provides parents with the opportunity to work or attend school and pursue greater financial security. We provide greater financial security for families by eliminating childcare deserts and expanding childcare options.”

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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