CHICAGO (CBS) – The U.S. is bracing for a child care cliff with the expiration of pandemic emergency relief funds, which are set to run out in two days.
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has been digging into how thousands of daycares in Illinois will be impacted, including many in the Chicago area.
Several daycare owners told CBS 2 the funding was the only reason they survived the pandemic, and without it, parents and staff are going to face a serious dilemma.
The American Rescue Plan funding has helped thousands of child care centers across Illinois pay their staff, upgrade their facilities and keep cots lower for parents.
But it's set to expire on Sept. 30.
"This funding made it where some parents only had to pay a dollar for a copay," said Daphne Williams, CEO of Smarty Pants Early Learning Center. "Losing this, it's going to hurt all that's involved. It's going to hurt the staff, the families, and the business owners."
Williams and her staff have been teaching kids the alphabet and overseeing nap time for more than a decade at her center in Grand Boulevard.
She said about 30% of her parents rely on the grants to be able to afford daycare tuition.
Dolly Mansker, who runs Mansker's Loving Daycare, said close to 95% of her kids' families rely on the funding.
"A lot of our families can't afford that if we raise the tuition," Mansker said.
Some federal lawmakers have proposed new funding to fill the gap through the Childcare Stabilization Act, which local daycare owners said they fervently support because without it, they would be left in a tough spot: Cut the budget or raise tuition. It's something they don't want to do to parents.
"I'm not a quitter," Williams said. "If I have to cut corners and lower tuition a little bit, I will."
Williams, a mother herself, said that's because she's knows the alternative will impact working women the hardest.
"A lot of these moms send their kids to daycare," she said. "So they need this support in order to continue working."
The Childcare Stabilization Act was introduced on Sept. 13, but so far it does not have Republican support. A bipartisan taskforce is looking at other potential legislative solutions.
for more features.