Pritzker touts spending of federal funds on child care grants
Financial uncertainty still swirls as COVID-19 continues to impact tax revenues
By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker signed a state budget for fiscal year 2021 Wednesday, but there is no more financial clarity now than there was when lawmakers passed the measure last month.
The $42.9 billion operating budget relies upon borrowing up to $5 billion from the federal government, which would be necessary if Congress does not pass any laws providing extra funding for states amid revenue shortfalls stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The budget includes repayment of $1.6 billion in borrowing to cover shortfalls in the current fiscal year budget due to the pandemic.
According to the May report of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, or CoGFA, the revenue estimates for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1 are $37.6 billion if a graduated income tax constitutional amendment passes. That figure drops to $36.4 billion if voters do not approve the change to Illinois’ tax structure.
If voters approve the graduated income tax amendment in November, the rates — which would shift to charge those earning more than $250,000 annually a higher income tax rate — are estimated to generate about $1.2 billion, according to CoGFA. If the public health crisis had not hit, that number would be $286 million higher.
Sales tax estimates were revised downward from March to May by nearly $1.5 billion, to $7.5 billion total for fiscal year 2021.
In a press release, the governor’s office emphasized that the spending plan “maintains funding for critical programs, such as education, health care and human services.”
Funding will remain level from the current year for K-12 education, community colleges and public universities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the enormous role government plays in keeping communities safe and providing the tools people need to build better lives,” Pritzker said in a statement Wednesday. “While the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our state revenues, investing in our people will allow the state to rebound and recover from this pandemic as we safely re-open. I will continue to advocate for a national program to support state and local governments to make up the difference in the revenues that fund vital services like hospitals and salaries for teachers and first responders.”
According to the governor’s office, more than $5 billion in federal aid — including funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act — will be directed to public health, social services, small businesses, local governments and households, including funding earmarked for communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
That includes $270 million in CARES Act funding to supporting child care providers, the governor said at an event in Moline Wednesday.
“And here’s the best part,” Pritzker said at the event. “Because there’s no blueprint for this kind of program, we’re asking providers to tell us how to design the approach that best helps them reopen safely with smaller group sizes, without imposing large tuition increases on families.”
Illinois’ Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency, or CURE, Fund distributes CARES Act dollars, including Business Interruption Grants specifically designed to support businesses that endure lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, is charged with developing the grant program for licensed childcare providers. The Child Care Restoration Grants will be administered by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, or INCCRRA.
An “Intent to Apply” survey also launched Wednesday to gather information for the development of the grants program, and money is to be released in July. Providers are asked to respond to the survey by 5 p.m. June 19. More information is available at inccrra.org or by clicking here.
Other CARES Act disbursements from the CURE Fund and Local CURE Fund for local governments include: $636 million for small business/child care centers assistance; $458 million for household and community support programs; $830 million for health care providers for pandemic-related stability payments; $250 million to local governments for reimbursements of COVID-19 related costs; and $1.5 billion for state agency COVID-19 related expenses.
The governor’s office also said the budget includes “reductions of operations appropriations of $200 million and another $140 million in transportation funds at the Department of Transportation from the governor’s introduced levels.” Some of those savings is the result of “a continued partial hiring freeze and restricted operations expenditures,” according to the office.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
PHOTO: Gov. JB Pritzker takes questions in Rockford Wednesday at one of his two public events to tout spending on child care grant programs in the fiscal year 2021 budget. (Credit: Illinois.gov)