lightford 033122SPRINGFIELD – Members of the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus joined child care advocates and parents on Tuesday to introduce a slate of legislation that would invest in families and children.

“To strengthen the lives of Illinois children, we have to ensure families have the freedom to give their children richer and fuller lives,” said State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago). “By investing in their potential, we also indirectly construct more equitable communities that offer greater opportunities for growth.”

Legislation in the Strengthening Illinois Families and Children package include initiatives to expand the earned income credit, create a child tax credit, expand child care benefits to low-income families and funding for child care and early childhood education programs.

Senate Bill 3774, introduced by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago), would incrementally increase the earned income credit to 25% of the federal EIC by 2025. The legislation would also expand the credit to taxpayers 18-24 years of age, 65 and older, and to taxpayers who use an individual taxpayer identification number if they would otherwise qualify for the federal EIC, which excludes these groups.

“Working-class families have suffered a lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I call on my colleagues to pass the earned income credit and the state child tax credit as tools to provide relief,” Aquino said. “These folks never stopped working, now we need to do everything in our power to make sure they have the means to get back on their feet. I can't think of a better way than letting them keep some of their hard-earned dollars through these credits.”

Senate Bill 2132, introduced by State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), would create a child tax credit of a maximum of $600 for each child of a taxpayer under the age of 17.

“Working parents and their children have waited decades for real relief from constant financial stress,” Simmons said. “The time is now for Illinois to create a child tax credit for working families which we know will put dollars back into the pockets of people in every part of this state who do the thankless work of keeping  our society running, who are raising children during an unrelenting pandemic, and who are always last to get relief.”

Senate Bill 3810, introduced by Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Chicago), would provide a combined $1.2 billion in funding to a variety of Department of Human Services and Illinois State Board of Education programs that cover early childhood education, family and community services, and income assistance.

"As we work to recover from the pandemic, we need to continue to fully fund programs that provide stability to our marginalized youth and families across Illinois," Lightford said. "The Education and Workforce Development Pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus four-pillar agenda, stood for access, equity, and inclusion. If we are going to rid Illinois of systemic racism, we need to continue to push bills like Senate Bill 3180 to ensure equitable access for all residents in this state."

Senate Bill 3987, introduced by State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago), would codify the Department of Human Services’ threshold to receive child care benefits to be less than 250% of the current federal poverty level, per family size, for redetermination every 12 months.

“The package will provide a much-needed boost to families and their children,” Pacione-Zayas said. “Children serve as a barometer of community well-being. When the children are well, their parents are well, their caregivers are well, and the environment is set up for them to thrive. By setting up a path to ensure our children are taken care of, we are investing in our community and our future.”

Senator Pacione-Zayas also introduced Senate Bills 3993 and 4198 to fund programs related to child care. Senate Bill 3993 would appropriate $8 million to the Illinois Treasurer’s Higher Education Savings Program. The Higher Education Savings Program provides a $50 seed deposit into a 529 college savings account for every child born or adopted in Illinois on or after Jan. 1, 2023 if the $50 is claimed by the child’s family before the child’s 10th birthday.

Senate Bill 4198 would provide $3 million in funding for local early childhood community collaboratives to support enrollment, outreach and coordination among service providers.

All measures await consideration before the Senate.

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