PI Original Ellyn Fortino Wednesday June 24th, 2015, 5:04pm

Service Reductions, Layoffs Imminent Without A 'Responsible' State Budget, Say Illinois Community Providers (VIDEO)

Gathering at the Thompson Center Wednesday morning, dozens of community providers, people who depend on their services and leaders with the Responsible Budget Coalition urged Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers to enact a "fair budget" in short order that includes adequate revenue to avert deep cuts to vital programs. Service providers detailed the potential program cuts and layoffs that could occur if a "responsible budget" is not adopted by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

If state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner do not reach an agreement on a "responsible budget" by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, many Illinois human service providers say they would be forced to reduce or possibly eliminate programs and layoff staff.

In the event that a budget is not adopted by July 1 and payments to human service providers are halted thereafter, some organizations say they might have to shut down completely.

Gathering at the Thompson Center Wednesday morning, dozens of community providers, people who depend on their services and leaders with the Responsible Budget Coalition urged Rauner and legislators to enact a "fair budget" in short order that includes adequate revenue to avert deep cuts to vital programs. 

"If the state stops paying its bills (after June 30 ), then cuts to vital services and layoffs will happen immediately," stressed Responsible Budget Coalition leader William McNary with Citizen Action Illinois. "It's time for Springfield to act. And if you don't act next week, families will pay the price."

Illinois faces a more than $6 billion deficit in fiscal year 2016, due mostly to the rollback of the 2011 temporary income tax hike. State Democratic leaders and Rauner are at stalemate over how to close the budget gap. 

Rauner has proposed a $31.5 billion spending plan, which calls for no new revenue and would slash funding from a range of budgetary items.

For their part, Democratic lawmakers are pushing a 2016 spending plan that the governor says is $4 billion short. Democrats have put forward some spending cuts and want to work with the administration in finding new revenues to tackle the budget.

Rauner has repeatedly said he will not sign an unbalanced budget nor consider new revenue options unless Democrats agree to components of his controversial pro-business, anti-union "Turnaround Agenda."

The governor's office has outlined more than $800 million in spending reductions that Rauner is preparing to implement if a budget agreement does not happen by July 1.

The administration is looking to reduce spending in a number of areas, including the Child Care Assistance Program, the Community Care Program, which helps seniors stay in their homes, and a service that provides financial assistance to low-income Illinoisans for their utilities.

Regarding the Child Care Assistance Program, parent copays will increase by 30 percent and eligibility requirements will change come July 1 if there is no new budget, said Maureen Hallagan, executive director of the Marillac Social Center at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, a Chicago-based social service provider. Families are currently eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program if they earn up to 185 percent of the poverty level.

"As of July 1, new families entering the program will be eligible at 50 percent of the poverty level," Hallagan said. "The families we serve are truly the working poor. These new requirements will make it extremely difficult for families to continue to have their children in child care and may make it impossible for them to stay employed."

Donald Dew, president and CEO of Chicago-based Habilitative Systems, Inc., which provides housing and other supports at 15 West Side locations to people "at risk of institutionalization, hospitalization, incarceration and mortality," said 90 percent of the programming provided by his organization is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).

"If the state stops funding these payments as of July 1, we should have no choice but to close various facilities and cut our staff," he stressed.

The organization might have to eventually shut down altogether, Dew said. And if that happens, "One hundred people would be out of work, and our communities would lose mental health, housing, disability and other critical services."

Also at the press conference was Maria Pesqueira, president and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a Chicago-based Latina social service organization helping women and their families, including domestic violence and rape survivors.

"If a responsible budget is not passed and the state stops making payments on July 1, I'll be forced to layoff 39 of our 47 staff ... We will be forced to reduce service hours [to] four days a week. We will not be able to provide the needed assistance to many survivors to break the cycle of abuse in their families and in their lives.

"Our clients live in dangerous situations and do not have many choices," she added. "Without our services, they may be forced into the streets and into other dangerous situations -- or this could mean the difference between life and death." 

Here's more from Pesqueira, Dew and Pamela Broomfield, who depends on supportive housing services that are in jeopardy:

On Tuesday, DHS sent a letter to service providers, saying that the department plans to issue its Community Service Agreements for the 2016 fiscal year by the end of the week. However, DHS Secretary James Dimas said in the letter that not all "providers and programs will be issued a CSA (Community Service Agreement) for this year."

Dimas further warned, "For those that do receive a CSA for this year, the very real possibility remains that either: (i) the amount and availability of the grant will be modified, or (ii) payments to your organization will not begin until the fiscal situation is resolved."

For providers that do not receive a state contract with DHS for fiscal year 2016, Dimas said that "no payment will be approved for any activities performed on or after July 1, 2015."

Flora Koppel, executive director of the South Side Chicago service provider Unity Parenting and Counseling, Inc., said she received that letter from DHS.

The letter "made it clear that we can't count on the state to meet its obligations to youth and families and all of the persons that are served by us and other agencies," she said.

Koppel said Unity Parenting and Counseling's funding for homeless youth services is on the chopping block.

"There are over 2,000 homeless youth on any one night in Chicago," Koppel said. "There will be more of them on the street should these cuts go through."

Mariana Osoria, director of Family Focus Nuestra Familia, which provides supportive family services in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, said her organization would have to immediately suspend services for 3,691 individuals and layoff 50 employees if there is no budget by July 1.

And at the Chicago-based Erie Neighborhood House, nearly 1,000 clients might be cut off from services if the organization's funding stops, according to the facility's top director.

"This is a choice," said Celena Roldan, executive director of the Erie Neighborhood House, which assists low-income and immigrant families. "Our governor can choose children, working families and parents. He can choose revenue. Time is up. We need our governor and our legislators to show leadership and choose revenue and choose to invest in our Illinois."


Do the math.

If you want to pass Madigan's budget, increase a tax by 4 billion to pay for it.

If you don't want to pay more tax, accept the service recuctions.

It ain't rocket science to figure this out.



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