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Sheriff, childcare providers tell Springfield to restore youth services funding cuts

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With Chicago Public Schools’ classes set to resume next week, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and youth development leaders on Thursday called on state lawmakers to restore cuts to childcare assistance and afterschool programs.

Dart and other official’s gathered at the Cook County Jail to protest new income guidelines for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which took effect on July 1. The new guidelines lowered the income level requirement significantly, and as a result only 10 percent of families who were previously eligible for CCAP will still be able to participate in the program, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune. Previously a family of three earning a yearly income of up to about $37,000 could receive assistance under CCCP, but the new regulations cap eligibility for a family of three at an annual income of about $10,000. According to the Tribune’s report, cost-cutting measures implemented at the state leave also “essentially put a freeze on future applications” for assistance under the CCAP. 

Albert Richardson, the director of youth services at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, said the cuts to CCAP have forced his organization to turn down 80 families who have sought services since July, according to a press release issued by the Responsible Budget Coalition.

“These are young children we’re talking about – kids 12 and younger – that are being robbed of the safety and support they deserve,” Richardson explained.

Community leaders on Thursday also spoke out against Springfield’s suspension of funding for the Teen REACH afterschool grant. The state suspended its $169,000 grant for Teen Reach in April as “part of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s suspension of $26 million in grants to social services and public health programs,” the Sun Times reported. During this week’s press conference, Noel Chambers of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago stressed the importance of the program because it aims to teach teenagers how to avoid drugs and violence.

“Teen REACH is an accountable, proven program,” Chambers told the crowd on Thursday, according to the RBC’s press release. “We want our leaders in Springfield to know that leaving kids without safe and productive options afterschool, during what law enforcement dubs 'the prime time for juvenile crime’ is a poor choice.”

Earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on the governor to “re-evaluate” the CCAP cuts and announced the city will appropriate $9 million in the 2016 budget to supplement child care services for families who lost their eligibility in July.

Sheriff Dart on Thursday contended funding child care and afterschool programs is not only important for the families and students, but also for overall public safety.

“Public safety demands that parents and youth have the basic tools they need to be successful, productive and responsible,” Dart said. “State leaders can either choose kids and fund services for families and communities, or they can ask our first responders and criminal justice system to clean up their mess at a far greater cost – both in tax dollars and lives.” 

Photo Caption: 

From left to right: DaWana Williamson, YMCA of Metro Chicago; Noel Chambers, Boys and Girls Club of Chicago; and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart (Responsible Budget Coalition)