The Forest Park-based Progress Center for Independent Living, on 7521 Madison St., has been hard at work lately, both at home and in the state’s capitol.
The group, created to assist persons with disabilities, had about a third of their general revenue fund on the chopping block in Governor Quinn’s last proposed budget. The general revenue fund makes up a third of the overall $1.2 million budget, and a cut of that magnitude would have been devastating, said Progress’s Program Director John Jansa.
“We struggle to keep our costs low so that we can continue to operate with the same funding we get,” Jansa said. “And that’s why any cut is so damaging, because our contracts don’t even keep up with inflation.”
According to Jansa, that money goes to cover their overhead and staff pay, and health insurance, among other costs, such as reimbursing the travel expenses of people who visit them for help, and the price of promoting the organization. The funding was important to hold onto after the group faced a 10 percent budget cut last year.
Though this year’s cut wasn’t as deep, Jansa said that it’s hard felt “when you’re operating on a shoestring budget.”
The center was able to reduce the cuts to 1 percent after a successful advocacy campaign in Springfield; Jansa said that 25 advocates, allies and staff went downstate to pressure lawmakers to not strip the center, and other social service organizations, of the state funding that they rely on.
Progress’ local activism is apparent, as well: one needs only look to the new housing development replacing the Comcast Building in Oak Park. Sam Knight, Progress’ community organizing advocate, said that through its work with United Power for Action and Justice, Progress made sure that one or more units on each of floor are accessible. What’s more, an elevator has been added to the plans.
Proviso Township also recently awarded the Center with a $25,000 grant, secured in part with the help of Mayor Anthony Calderone.
According to Jansa, the money will be used to fund Progress’ accessible housing program, which helps persons with disabilities modify their homes. Such modifications include wider doors for wheelchairs, grab bars in the bathroom, and other improvements.
“Funding like this is hard to find,” he said.
Nick Moroni contributed to this article