Raising Illinois’ Response to Governor JB Pritzker’s Proposed FY 2024 Budget
Raising Illinois applauds the Smart Start Illinois initiative proposed by Governor Pritzker in his FY24 Budget Address
Raising Illinois is energized by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s proposed framework for ensuring an equitable, affordable and high-quality system of health services, learning experiences and economic supports for our state’s expecting families, infants and toddlers.
In his budget address yesterday, the Governor released a monumental, multi-year proposal, Smart Start Illinois, to increase state funding for preschool, child care, Early Intervention and home visiting programs and ultimately reach more families across the state. For Illinois’ Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) budget, the initiative calls for new early childhood investments of over $320 million, including:
- $75 million for preschool services and prenatal-to-age 3 programs (12.5% over FY 2023), with the goal of creating 5,000 new preschool slots for 3- to 5-year olds and expansion of infant/toddler services in communities with too few options
- $70 million for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) (17% over FY 2023) to cover the program’s growing caseload and improve its data system
- $40 million for the Early Intervention (EI) program (34.5% over FY 2023) to increase provider reimbursement rates by 10%, address service coordination challenges and accommodate growing caseloads
- $5 million for home visiting programs (27.9% over FY 2023) to serve an additional 500-650 families
- $130 million to establish child care workforce compensation contracts to increase staff wages and predictability of provider payments
In addition, the Governor proposed a one-time $100 million appropriation for the Early Childhood Construction Grant (ECCG) program in FY 2024 to fund capital improvements to child care facilities.
“Thanks to Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois plan, today is truly a historic day for early childhood,” Raising Illinois Director Simone Santiago said. “For far too long, expecting families, infants and toddlers have been missing from this critical conversation – despite overwhelming evidence that this is the most pivotal time in child development. Raising Illinois is eager to work closely with the General Assembly to enact a budget that sets the standard for families nationwide.”
As we build on this momentum, Raising Illinois will continue to elevate the multifaceted needs of infants, toddlers and their families. In tandem with expanding preschool slots, our state must intentionally address what we call “the gap within the gap” – the nearly 82% of infants and toddlers in Illinois who lack access to licensed child care options.
We also cannot afford to lose sight of the broader investments required to improve physical and mental health outcomes for both infants and their birthing parents. To this end, the Governor’s proposed budget includes:
- $450 million for health care workforce development over multiple years
- $5 million to increase Medicaid rates for obstetrics and gynecology providers
- $18 million to support and protect reproductive health initiatives
- $2 million for mental health training for front-line workers in the pediatric field
- $1.3 million for continued support for the work of the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative
While we applaud the Governor’s focus on mental health, particularly in strategies to address the behavioral health workforce crisis, we must advocate for the funding to be directed toward prevention services and dyadic and family interventions that focus on infants, toddlers and their caregivers.
With egregious racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, our state must move with urgency to equitably implement Medicaid coverage for doula services, home visiting and universal newborn support services. And, as Medicaid eligibility redetermination resumes in June for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois must invest resources to ensure that eligible birthing parents do not needlessly lose their 12-month postpartum health coverage.
The Governor also demonstrated the importance of economic security – a key component of Raising Illinois’ Prenatal-to-Age 3 Policy Agenda – with two major investment proposals to mitigate family poverty:
- $50 million for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to increase cash assistance grants to 10% above current levels
- $20 million to launch the Illinois Grocery Initiative to open or expand fresh food options in underserved rural and urban communities
We celebrate these consequential pledges to help uplift families. At the same time, our coalition calls for expanded benefits and food options for those furthest from opportunity through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Just as critical is financial support for diapers – with nearly one in three families struggling to afford such a basic necessity. A statewide diaper allowance program currently pending in the Illinois House of Representatives would cost as little as $12 million. A child tax credit or other robust family-friendly tax reforms would drive even further impact.
“The budget is a win for families in many ways,” LeAnn Swain, a Family Leader with Raising Illinois from East St. Louis, said. “I have high hopes that this will help families better access the services they so desperately need.”
Raising Illinois now turns its focus to the General Assembly, which is responsible for approving the final FY 2024 budget in the coming weeks. Contact your state legislators and urge them to prioritize prenatal-to-age-3 investments. Our work is just beginning. Let’s do it together.
"Today is truly a historic day for early childhood, and Raising Illinois is eager to work closely with the General Assembly to enact a budget that sets the standard for families nationwide.”
Director of Raising Illinois
“The budget is a win for families in many ways. I have high hopes that this will help families better access the services they so desperately need.”
Raising Illinois Family Leader, East St. Louis