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Proposed State Budget Sustains Early Childhood Support, Lifts Maternal Morbidity and Housing Insecurity Affecting Black Families

Erikson Institute applauds Governor Pritzker’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget for the State of Illinois’ children and families. It builds on notable strides made in the FY24 budget through the governor’s inaugural Smart Start initiative and its investments that signified a strong commitment to resources for children and families.

The Governor’s proposed investments for Year 2 of Smart Start are:

  • $13.2 million to launch the Department of Early Childhood
  • $75 million to the Early Childhood Block Grant, which would add 5,000 slots in preschool deserts
  • $158.5 million to support the Smart Start Workforce Compensation Contracts and to fund the increasing caseload for the Child Care Assistance Program
  • $6 million for the Early Intervention program to cover the increased caseload
  • $5 million to state run home visiting programs which will help increase slots and support he workforce
  • $5 million for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) for scholarships for the incumbent early childhood workforce
  • $3.5 million for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library early childhood literacy program

The Need to Safeguard Workforce Investments

One of the key factors in ensuring a stable early care and education system is sustaining and growing the workforce. While $5 million toward the ECACE program will help support early childhood staff working toward a degree, it is also much less than the previous multi-year investment and could strip away some of the program’s services and likely reduce scholarship amounts. Investments in the workforce should continue to grow and we hope the budget for the ECACE program does not shrink over time. Many of the Governor’s goals to serve as many children as possible are directly linked to the workforce and investments need to be safeguarded.

Family Stability Investments Leading with Equity

Governor Pritzker announced investments that help build basic-needs stability for families. We are heartened by the attention given to the Black maternal morbidity issue and the initiative to have doulas, midwives, and lactation consultants recognized as Medicaid healthcare providers to increase access to their services. Additionally, through a buy-back debt program, $1B in medical debt can be eliminated for 340,000 Illinoisans for a reduced buy-back cost of $10M. This proposed appropriation would give families opportunities to reserve household income for other necessities like child care or housing. The Governor also unscored the need to address the deep disparities Black Illinoisans are experiencing when it comes to homelessness. A proposed $50M would be dedicated to addressing root causes of housing insecurity in the Black community.

A New Agency, A New Direction

The Governor including $13.2 million to begin the planning of a unified Department of Early Childhood is significant because it comes after much input and advocacy from parents, service providers, community leaders and other professionals. Erikson commends this new direction which can help alleviate roadblocks and confusion families experience while navigating through programs housed in various agencies. We implore the Governor and the team charged with leading the new agency to center racial equity and continue seeking public input during the planning and implementation stages.

Take Action! Tell Your Elected Officials to Support Early Childhood Investments

As engaged citizens, it is up to each one of us to drum up awareness and let our elected officials know the importance of supporting our youngest learners and their educators.  Find your local legislator

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