Though a 2008 University of Colorado study already ranks Illinois 51st in the nation when it comes to supporting social service programs, legislators recently proposed a budget cut that would slash the amount of money provided to such organizations.
The general assembly’s current proposal cuts $9.2 billion in funding to many of the state’s services. This translates to a $5 billion cut in community-provided services and a $4.2 billion reduction in state-provided services.
As an alternative to the suggested cuts, Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed hiking the income tax to 4.5 percent to compensate for the state’s 2009 fiscal year deficit. That deficit is estimated to be anywhere between $8 billion and $12 billion.
However, should the proposed legislation take effect on July 1 – the beginning of the state’s 2010 fiscal year – many local social service organizations say they would be forced to reduce employment and do away with programs.
The Progress Center for Independent Living in Forest Park is a non-profit that works to assist people with disabilities. Progress Center provides education on peer counseling, advocacy, personal assistance, education on Medicare, services to the deaf, and outreach to the Latino community, among other services.
Administrators at the center said the office stands to lose half of the $450,000 it receives annually from the state. This would prompt a drastic reduction in services, and half of the staff would be laid off. Progress Center employees predict that many of the people they serve would be forced into nursing homes.
John Jansa, program director for the center, called the lawmakers’ solution to the state’s budget crisis “counter productive.”
“You’re taking people out of their homes and putting them in nursing homes,” Jansa said.
Pillars, which has locations in Berwyn, Oak Park and Western Springs, in addition to other centers scattered about Chicagoland, is another non-profit that would be affected by the legislation.
Providing an array of social programs in the arenas of child and adolescent services, Pillars is an organization rooted in providing assistance to those who suffer from mental disabilities.
Pillars receives $2.7 million annually from the state and could experience a 46 percent cut in overall funding. According to the organization, Pillars would no longer be able to treat those without health insurance or Medicaid, which is a sizable portion of their clientele. John Shustitzky, president and CEO of Pillars, said he is deeply concerned.
“We’ll have to implement a plan to live within the cuts,” Shustitzky said.
Seguin Services, a non-profit organization in Cicero, serves children and adults with developmental disabilities. The organization trains foster parents to care for children with severe mental, behavioral and medical disabilities and also offers opportunities for parents to adopt. Seguin also provides several housing, training and employment opportunities for adults.
Some $340,000 has already been revoked from Seguin’s supported employment program. Like the aforementioned organizations, Seguin, too, is facing a nearly 50 percent reduction in state funding.
“Our ability to serve is in serious jeopardy,” James Haptonstahl, Seguin Foundation senior vice president, said. “Such a compromise would make us close our doors.”
Helping Hand Rehabilitation Center in Countryside, another organization devoted to assisting people with disabilities, would lose $250,000 in grant funding and see up to a 40 percent loss in its fee-for-funding service. That program gives state money to the individual who then selects the agency that best suits their needs.
The Children’s Clinic, which is sponsored by Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society, would have to do away with free vaccinations that have been provided to children of low-income families for decades.
“This will effect around 1,000 children,” Elizabeth Lippit, Children’s Clinic master of Health Services Administration, said.
Rooted in 112 years of charitable tradition, Oak Park’s Hephzibah Children’s Association would see the doors of the Hephzibah Diagnostic Shelter close. The diagnostic shelter cares for severely abused children between the ages of 3 and 12.
“These are kids that have been displaced countless times,” Davida Williams, Hephzibah foster care specialist, said.
Beginning June 25 at 10 a.m. and running to June 30 at midnight, Seguin Services will host a vigil outside its offices at 3100 S Central Ave., in Cicero. The organization is hoping state legislators will come up with an alternative to the proposed budget cuts.