CHICAGO (CBS) — Help is on the way for Illinois parents struggling to get back to work because of child care issues.

Gov. JB Pritzker and state Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou announced Monday that starting Oct. 1, those actively seeking work will be eligible for three months of free aid from the Child Care Assistance Program.

In addition, staff at child care centers will be eligible to receive a bonus, up to $1,000. The bonuses will be followed by two more rounds of child care restoration grants, and another phase of grants in 2022 – with $300 million to be made available to providers statewide.

Earlier this year, the governor also announced Child Care Assistance Program co-pays would decrease for 80 percent of families who participate, with some families whose income is below the federal poverty line having seen their co-pays cut to $1.

Pritzker’s office said the state has invested more than $70 million in COVID-19 relief to the Illinois child care industry since the pandemic began.

“Child care is an essential part of a strong and equitable economy, and I’m proud that Illinois is leading the nation in supporting families and providers,” Pritzker said in a news release. “Without safe and affordable child care, too many caregivers – especially women – can’t return to the workforce. We’re taking a major step to address this problem in Illinois, and rebuild our child care ecosystem – and rebuild it better.”

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