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Watch now: Illinois offers 3 months of free childcare in push to get parents back to work

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou announce expansion of childcare assistance. READ MORE HERE.

Low-income parents who are trying to return to the workforce can apply for three months of free child care under a new package of pandemic relief measures announced Monday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Starting Oct. 1, the free child care benefit will be available to eligible parents living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or $53,000 for a family of four.

“With this new program, Illinois is allowing more people to look for jobs, and return to work, without having to worry where their kids will go during the day,” Pritzker said.

Speaking at Christopher House in Belmont Cragin, Pritzker also announced several new efforts to shore up the hard-hit child care profession, including a bonus of up to $1000 for child care workers and $300 million in grants for providers.

The governor called child care an “essential front-line service” and praised employees who are “carrying the rest of the working world on their shoulders.”

Parents who find work or enroll in an approved education program may be eligible to receive up to 12 months of free child care through the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.

The initiatives are part of a broader effort to support child care providers during the pandemic and help parents get back to work.

Earlier this year, the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, which subsidizes child care for low-income people, announced decreased copays for 80% of families who participate

Families with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level have seen their monthly copays reduced to just $1.

During the pandemic, Illinois has funneled more than $700 million in relief funding into the state’s child care industry, according to the governor’s office. Through an initial round of grants, over 5,000 providers received monetary support, including 85% of eligible child care centers and 40% of licensed family child care homes. On average, child care centers have received over $270,000 each and child care homes have received an average of $13,000, according to the governor’s office.

Speaking at the news conference, Democratic state Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado said that for her constituents in Belmont Cragin, where a third of the population in under 19, the need for child care is very real.

“Working mothers have been disproportionately impacted, many of whom had to leave their jobs in order to care for their children as a result of this pandemic, making it even harder for some of these households to make ends meet,” she said.

Having subsidized child care while looking for a job can make “all the difference in the world,” Delgado said.

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