CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Many daycare programs in Central Illinois are struggling to stay afloat. They’re missing thousands of dollars from the state.
Some daycare employees haven’t gotten checks in weeks, others haven’t in months.
That’s making childcare difficult for some right now. One facility in the Rantoul Business Center is empty, and one employee said they aren’t the only ones.
Daycares are having trouble paying staff, and it’s also making it hard for some parents to pay tuition.
Angela Perry, the daycare’s administrative director, said she’s worried there’s no end in sight.
“Without assistance, childcare programs and home daycare providers are subject to closing,” Perry said.
Her classrooms are missing laughter and learning. Perry said their attendance numbers have been dwindling for weeks.
“Providers are struggling to receive payments,” she added.
She hasn’t gotten money from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) in months. Some of that money goes to help families receive free childcare.
“This problem has been an issue. This is going on approximately our 45th day with no income from a 100% childcare subsidized program like ours,” Perry said.
Her facilities receive $5,000-$8,000 monthly from IDHS. They not only use that money for employees and rent, but also for educational tools and food.
“Our program serves low to moderate-income families,” Perry said.
She’s reached out to the state and got a letter from IDHS.
In that letter, they said there’s a problem with their accounting system. That system has been experiencing technical issues since Jan. 2.
But daycare providers WCIA talked to said it’s been an issue even longer.
Amy Revilla, a licensed daycare provider in Champaign, got the same note. She’s also experiencing payment problems.
“I got a check for a boy for two months that I hadn’t gotten paid,” Revilla said. “They still owe me $4,000-$5,000.”
Most of her kids’ daycare services are state-funded. She said she’s prepared to “figure it out.”
“I’m not going to turn the kids away, but it’s going to make it really hard for me to buy groceries and pay my credit cards,” Revilla said.
She’s experienced delays before, but nothing this bad.
Perry said without daycare programs, some children may be growing up in unsafe environments.
“We help children who are at risk of having a negative life outcome or negative trajectories,” she said. “Programs like ours intervene in their lives early enough so that they can grow into independence.”
It’s something they want to be fixed now. They can’t wait for answers any longer.
“Without programs to help the providers, we can’t help the community,” Perry added.
Nearly half of Perry’s employees have left for other jobs. She said some are going to elementary schools with more competitive wages. Others are switching to jobs that require less academic training.
IDHS said in a statement:
IDHS’ Division of Early Childhood is dedicating every available resource to addressing a backlog of payments to our providers that developed in the past few weeks. We have corrected the technical issue, communicate with providers, and are moving payments through the process as fast as possible. The Illinois Comptroller has prioritized payments to child care providers and payments will be processed immediately upon receipt by that office. We apologize for the hardship this backlog has caused and as always, are grateful to our providers for your continued dedication to the children of Illinois.IDHS