From a news release: Building on a robust, statewide effort to ensure Illinois can safely reopen and families can return back to work, Governor Pritzker announced the state’s plan for a gradual reopening of child care in Phases 3 and 4 of Restore Illinois.
To date, Illinois has not seen significant transmission of COVID-19 in child care settings, which is encouraging evidence that child care can be provided safely. However, public health experts note that there is still much we need to learn about the virus, its impact on children, and how it spreads. Therefore, Illinois is implementing a cautious approach that appropriately balances the need to greatly expand child care with the need for prudent restrictions that lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Based off the advice of public health experts, the new group size limits will be roughly 30% lower than their pre-pandemic levels for centers. For licensed homes which tend to be smaller, most will be able to operate at standard capacity. Collectively, these efforts would bring Illinois to three-quarters of the previous child care capacity in the state.
Providers that have been successfully operating as emergency child care providers can move immediately to these new maximum capacities when their Region enters Phase 3. Most licensed child care homes will also be able to reopen to their licensed capacity.
Illinois is encouraging all of the currently closed licensed child care providers to reopen when their Region moves to Phase 3 to serve the many families who will be returning to work. Those providers that have been closed and will reopen must develop a Reopening Plan that ensures they have revised operational and preparedness policies in place before opening.
These newly reopened providers will have reduced capacity, of no more than 10 children per classroom, for the first 4 weeks. Once they have provided care safely for four weeks and have followed the new health, social distancing and sanitation routines and guidelines, they will be able to expand to larger group sizes, though not their full licensed capacity.
There will be no restrictions on which families can use child care in Phases 3 and 4.
Recognizing children’s need for quality early learning experiences, all providers will be expected to resume compliance with all licensing standards related to curriculum, learning environment, and staff qualifications.
The state gathered input from over 80 stakeholders in discussions on how to safely and prudently reopen child care across Illinois, from new health and sanitation protocols, to staff training needs, to what supports families will need as they return to child care. The recommendations shaped Illinois’ roadmap for safely increasing access to child care as families return to work.
The state has made significant investments in its vast child care network during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as implementing a simple waiver process to allow providers to be paid for all of their enrolled children in the Child Care Assistance Program for March through June, so that child care staff could continue to be paid as normal through this unprecedented period. The state also increased the CCAP money that emergency center providers receive for each child.
Illinois is continuing to work on developing appropriate business relief funds that will help to minimize the financial impact of these necessary limitations and is working alongside the state’s congressional delegation to amplify its support for our national child care landscape in an upcoming relief package.