Big week for The Arc and I am looking forward to it!

I met with Michael Wasmer, Director of State Government Affairs with Autism Speaks
yesterday to discuss their plans for a Illinois Able Act. I expressed our concerns about
the bill the President recently signed into law and what a disappointment it was. We
shall see what transpires here in Illinois. They intend to also introduce their bill in
Florida and New Jersey.

Today, the Going Home Campaign meets to lay out plans for our Annual Day at the
Capitol on March 25th, registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. Plan on attending.
Registration will begin shortly.

Also today, The Arc’s Executive Committee meets.

Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m., we will host along with Health Care & Family Services Staff
a Listening Forum on the new Center’s For Medicare & Medicaid new Rules on Home
& Community-Based Services. Then I head to Lisle to set up for our Annual
Leadership Conference.

Thursday & Friday is The Arc’s Leadership Conference and we have the largest
attendance ever with over 130 registered as of today. Speakers include:

  • John Newton on Succession Planning
  • Marty Ford, Director of Public Policy for The Arc on the New Congress in
  • Directors Casey & Romano along with Marty Ford will comment on the new CMS
    Rules and What This Will Mean in Illinois
  • Attorneys Barry Taylor, Melissa Picciola & Cheryl Jansen will present on Illinois
    Employment First Blueprint.
  • Tony Records, Ligas Court Monitor will review Ligas Third Year
  • Lastly, Representative Patti Bellock, Deputy Minority Leader will discuss Working
    with a New Governor & Administration.

This is going to be a great week!

Wednesday, Governor Rauner will give his first State of the State Address at noon in
the Capitol. This address should be a preview to his priorities for his first Budget
Address two weeks later on February 18th. Below is a story from the Chicago Tribune
on a budget shortfall for childcare providers the first real test for Governor Rauner and
the current state budget.

The Arc will certainly be keeping an eye on this.


Day care Rauner’s first budget test
Program $300M short as providers leery of ‘sacrifice’

By Kim Geiger Tribune reporter

Gov. Bruce Rauner faces an immediate test of his ability to work through the
challenges of running cash-strapped Illinois now that the state has run out of money for
a popular subsidized day care program.

The Department of Human Services announced recently that it’s short nearly $300
million needed to pay for the day care program through June — the end of the budget
year — and payments will be late starting this month.

Funding hiccups are nothing new to providers, who have become skilled at raising
alarms to try to force action in Springfield. But this time is different, some say, because
of the uncertainty about the new governor — a Republican who has declared that
the state’s money problems will require “sacrifice” from all Illinoisans.

“Every year we go through something, but we’re able to rally and say this is important,
and then the funding comes,” said Grace Araya, director of Eyes on the Future Child
Development Center in Rogers Park. “We don’t really know where we stand. We don’t
know which way this will go.”

Rauner’s human services agency has said that state payments to the program will stop
“unless a responsible solution and appropriate funding source is found.” Federal money
will allow the program to keep operating, but without state funds there won’t be enough
to pay all the bills until the state figures out how — or if — to come up with its share.

“Unpaid bills will be carried over to the next month, and payment delays will get
progressively longer each month,” the department warned Thursday in a letter to
parents and providers.

The shortfall is rooted in the budget the Democratic-led General Assembly and then-
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn passed in the spring. The spending plan was widely viewed
as not having enough money to get through a full year because the state income tax
rate was scheduled to start rolling back Jan. 1.

Ordinarily, lawmakers would have taken up the budget shortfalls after the election,
but Rauner asked them not to do anything substantive in the lame duck session. That
left the new governor with a series of immediate financial challenges, with the Illinois
Department of Corrections also in danger of running out of money to pay overtime for
prison guards.

Asked Thursday about his plans for the day care program, Rauner blamed Quinn for
the problem and said he was working on it but would not provide a time frame or

“Working closely with the General Assembly, we are going to make sure that we do
the reallocations necessary to make sure the essential services of government stay
open and functioning,” Rauner said.

For the estimated 100,000 low-income families who rely on the discounted day care
rates, any cuts or delays seem unreasonable.

“If we don’t have child care, we cannot work, so that only makes a bad situation
worse,” said Katrina Williams, 24, a South Side mother of one who works two jobs but
says she still can’t make ends meet. “Child care is expensive, and we don’t make the
money to pay for it out of our pocket. It doesn’t happen like that over here.”

While there is no indication of widespread day care closings now, providers have
warned their clients that closings are possible if the situation goes on too long.
we don’t have any sense of what the plan is, people just do the math and say, ‘If
they’re not going to pay me, I can’t continue to provide care,’ ”said Maria Whelan,
president and CEO of Illinois Action for Children, which administers the subsidy
program in Cook County.

The shortfall is forcing providers like Eyes on the Future, which serves 285 low-
income children, to get creative. Araya said the day care center is looking into taking
out a line of credit to make it through the budget year.

Others said they are frustrated with what they see as a constant cycle of being
caught in the politics of the state’s financial struggles.

Pat Twymon, 53, has been operating a 16-child day care center out of her Calumet
City home for more than 20 years. She said she has dipped into her retirement fund
to get through past budget crises but indicated she won’t do that this time.

“We were able to get over a couple of hurdles by doing that. But now I’m at the point
where I can’t do that anymore. It would just totally devastate my family,” Twymon said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that something must be done.

“We’ve got a big enough budget, $35 billion, that I believe that there’s ways that we
can be moving dollars around to fund this,” said state Sen. Heather Steans,
D-Chicago. “There’s ways of managing it. It just takes the will, and I think this is worth
the will.”

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, blames Democrats for putting off the issue
when it came up last spring.

“They passed a budget immorally that put these families at risk,” said Syverson,
who indicated he supports reinstating the higher tax rates temporarily. “They knew it
wasn’t funded properly, even with the tax in place.”

Syverson said he thinks it will fall to Rauner to find a solution because the General
Assembly won’t be doing legislative work until March, which could be too late for
smaller providers who don’t have the cash reserves to keep operating.

“Day cares cannot wait months or weeks to get paid,” Syverson said. “And so there
has to be a solution, and the solution unfortunately has to be done relatively quickly
because of the uncertainty that families are facing and day cares are facing.”

Solving the immediate shortfall is only a first step, he said. In the next budget year,
the program could see higher copay rates for parents or new limits on eligibility, he

The governor’s office signaled as much in a memo last week.

“The costs of this program have increased above the rate of inflation and in order to
save the program some cost-saving measures may have to be implemented,”
Rauner spokesman Lance Trover wrote.

That is likely to anger providers, who contend they already are operating on a
shoestring. Eyes on the Future is paid less than $40 a day to watch 2-year-olds, less
than $33 for 3- to 5-year-olds and just over $16 for school-age kids, Araya said.

“We’re working with the children and the families to prepare them for school, we’re
addressing issues early on,” Araya said. “With the funding that you have, you’re trying
to provide the highest quality care in early learning as possible.”

Araya said she hopes that Diana Rauner’s background in early childhood education
— the first lady heads the Ounce of Prevention Fund, which provides assistance to
low-income kids and families in the Chicago area — is a sign that the new governor’s
pledge to tighten belts in Springfield won’t apply to the day care program.

“You hope that with all this talk about early childhood being really important, you
think, surely there’ll be money behind it,” Araya said.

Tribune reporter Ray Long contributed.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)