Proposed child care cuts to trigger downward spiral: "It put families like me and others in a deeper hole."

Proposed child care cuts to trigger downward spiral:  "It put families like me and others in a deeper hole."

Chalonda McIntosh doesn’t often take the day off work. But she will tomorrow, when she’ll head down to Springfield to protest cuts and funding shortages to the state’s child care subsidy program for low-income families.

I talked to McIntosh back in November when I was doing a story about the lack of child care centers around the Cabrini-Green neighborhood where she lives. McIntosh sends her youngest son, Raleigh, to the St. Vincent DePaul’s child care center on North Halsted Street in Lincoln Park, and uses Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) vouchers to help her pay for it.

When I read about the proposed cuts and the announcement that the state can’t pay providers for the rest of the fiscal year, I thought of McIntosh.

She told me then that she often racked up late fees at DePaul because she couldn’t pay her portion of child care fees on time after paying her rent and her car. What would these cuts mean to her family?

An ugly downward spiral.

“If they don’t make payments, they’re going to not allow him to come because I can’t afford to pay the other portion that the government pays,” said McIntosh. “My child will be out of day care. I would have to personally resign from my job, and that means I wouldn’t collect unemployment. It puts families like me and others in a deeper hole.”

Over 87,000 families in Illinois rely on CCAP vouchers to help afford child care, according to data from Illinois Action for Children.

If the state doesn’t pay DePaul their portion of child care assistance, it would likely cost McIntosh $600 a month to keep Raleigh in day care. If Governor Quinn makes cuts to the CCAP program as he’s proposed for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, McIntosh’s portion, even with the voucher, will go up another $50 to $60 a month. She already struggles to pay what she currently owes.

Because McIntosh lives in public housing, she would no longer be lease-compliant if she didn’t have a job, according to the Chicago Housing Authority’s 30-hour-a-week work requirement. No child care, no job, no income, no place to live.

“It means I would have to try to go get public assistance again,” said McIntosh.

So, we can’t help low-income working moms pay for child care, which means they can’t work, which will likely make them turn to the state for help via welfare. Do you spot the problem here?

I asked McIntosh what she would say to Governor Quinn if she had the chance.

“I would let him know that I’m a mother of six kids. I stay in public housing. If they don’t pay child care, it’s going to cut back on his educational needs. It’s going to hurt me and my family,” said McIntosh.  “We are the ones who actually help make the world go around. That’s all I can say.”

Photo credit: Jason Reblando

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