Essential workers eligible for state child care during pandemic

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike wear masks as they arrive for a daily press briefing on the state's fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic Sunday in Chicago. State residents are urged, but not required, to wear face masks when they are in public places to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

SPRINGFIELD – Workers in Illinois whose jobs are deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible for increased state child care services, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sunday.

Because essential workers cannot always be home to care for their children, Pritzker announced the state has expanded its Child Care Assistance Program to include workers in health care, human services, essential government services and essential infrastructure.

The state will cover most of the cost of care at emergency child care centers and homes, the governor said. Workers now eligible for emergency child care assistance range from nurses, doctors and hospital support staff to grocery store workers and food producers.

“Our essential workforce deserves to know that their kids are safe and cared for in a small and affordable group setting,” Pritzker said Sunday during his daily coronavirus briefing in Chicago.

Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, entered the briefing room wearing surgical masks, which Pritzker has recommended Illinoisans wear in crowded places.

Essential workers can find child care applications on the Illinois Department of Human Services website, DHS.illinois.gov/helpishere, and the state’s website of COVID-19 resources, coronavirus.illinois.gov.

Child care centers that are closed may apply for a permit to reopen as emergency centers through the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services. Home child care providers do not need a permit and can serve up to six children.

Pritzker said the state will also increase its reimbursement rates to emergency child care centers and homes by 30 percent.

“By and large, child care in this country is a high-risk, low-revenue business with razor-thin margins,” Pritzker said. “The people who run our centers and homes do so because they love to be there for our kids and our families.”

Pritzker also reminded Illinoisans that children who can stay home should stay home, and that the COVID-19 pandemic is not the time for arranging play dates or hanging out with friends.

“We need our youngest Illinoisans to follow this guidance, just like everyone else,” the governor said.

Cases top 11,000

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 899 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, including 31 new deaths. The new cases push the state into its fifth straight week of daily increases since reaching seven cases on March 8.

Illinois has recorded 11,256 total cases of COVID-19 and 274 total deaths from the disease. Nearly 60,000 people have been tested.

Though most of the new deaths are – and have been – in Cook County, the downstate counties of Peoria and Montgomery reported their first deaths on Sunday, with one apiece.

Stateville Correctional Center, near Joliet, also recorded its second inmate death from COVID-19. Ezike said the prisoner died at a local hospital, and Stateville has 60 cases of COVID-19.

“You all know like I know that these numbers represent people. They represent our fellow Illinoisans,” she said. “We should continue to do our best and keep everyone safe by staying home, washing our hands and physically distancing.”

On this Palm Sunday, which marks a week before Easter, Ezike urged religious Illinoisans to observe holy days at home and religious leaders to host services online.

“Once this pandemic comes to an end, we'll all be able to worship as previously and celebrate our treasured milestones together,” Ezike said. “We do have to do things differently because we're fighting an enemy that we've never seen before.”

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