Phil Kadner of the Southtown Star tells it like it is in a dynament commentary. The Arc
Heading to Chicago today to say good bye to Secretary Saddler. Too many good byes
Updated: January 16, 2015 2:10AM
Cutting the fat out of the state budget is likely to mean cutting programs that help the
homeless, battered women and the developmentally disabled.
When Gov. Bruce Rauner talked about freezing nonessential state spending in his
inaugural address, the people heading social service agencies across the state
understood that likely meant that their budgets are going to take a hit.
“We’ve been concerned since Jan. 1 since the (state) income tax increase rollback,”
said Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
One program likely to lose funding is homeless youth prevention, Dworkin said, which
is not mandated by state law or court order.
The state provides millions of dollars for emergency shelters and transitional housing
for children, allowing them to remain in school, keep their jobs or seek employment
from a stable environment. Dworkin said her agency provides assistance for about
2,500 homeless youths in the Chicago area.
A study by the coalition last year revealed that there were 22,144 homeless students
in the Chicago Public Schools, an increase of 18.6 percent over 2012. Of that number,
98 percent were minority children, and 20 percent were diagnosed with disabilities or
Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, which advocates on behalf of
thousands of disabled people and families in Illinois, said budget cuts could have an
impact on group homes and community services for the disabled, as well as respite
care for the families of the disabled.
“By respite care, we’re talking about workers who come to a home a few hours a day
so that the primary caregiver of a severely disabled adult or child can go to the
grocery store and buy food or just take a break from caring for a family member,”
“That’s not a state mandate. But it is an essential program to allow people to continue
caring for family members in their homes, which is far less expensive than putting
them in a state institution or nursing home,” he said. “Of course, we’re concerned
about any freeze on spending because of the state about to lose billions of dollars in
revenue due to the income tax rollback.
“Many of our service providers are going to either lay people off or go out of business
if the state cuts spending to them. This is going to result in a cut of the safety net for
people who are trying their best to help disabled family members.”
Thresholds, a private service provider that assists more than 7,000 severely mentally
ill people in Cook, McHenry and Kankakee counties, is another agency sweating out
Rauner’s budget decisions.
“(Illinois House) Speaker Michael Madigan has projected a $5.7 billion revenue shortfall
in fiscal 2016 if the income tax increase is not restored or other revenue created,” said
Heather O’Donnell, vice president of public policy and advocacy for Thresholds. “We
already suffered a funding cut for mental health of $117 million between fiscal years
2009 and 2013.”
She said it costs the state $10,243 a year to provide community-based care to a
seriously mentally ill person as opposed to $31,400 in a nursing home or $69,359 at the
Cook County Jail.
“And that’s where people end up when you cut funding to community-based mental
health programs,” O’Donnell said. “They end up in jail. They end up homeless. They end
up in nursing homes. They end up cycling repeatedly through hospitals, costing the state
millions of dollars more than it would have cost to provide community-based treatment.
“With treatment and counseling,we know these people are capable of leading productive
normal lives,” she said. “… So our hope is that Gov. Rauner will … find a way of
increasing the state’s revenue, either by restoring the income tax increase or through
some other method.
“The state doesn’t have enough money to adequately fund social service agencies right
now. And people should remember that we’re businesses, not-for-profit businesses but
businesses, that provide employment to people. We are not some bloated agency of the
Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said
organizations that operate battered women’s shelters throughout the state are also
anxiously awaiting word on what a budget freeze would mean to them.
“As you can imagine, the cuts could be pretty devastating to our members,” Smith said,
referring to 52 domestic violence shelters in Illinois. “It’s been in the news about the
potential loss of funds, but we don’t know what to expect.
“It’s not just about the shelters but social service providers that work with us to offer
assistance in housing, counseling, substance abuse programs, which are all
interconnected when it come to domestic violence.”
Each of the organizations I’ve mentioned is busy lobbying local legislators to retain their
funding, but each knows that will likely be impossible unless the state income tax
increase is restored.
There’s simply no other source of revenue that could generate the roughly $4 billion a
year the higher income tax provided.
And officials of several organizations noted that the state is going to run out of money
in its current budget before the new fiscal year begins in June.
I know why people voted for Rauner and reform. They’re tired of corruption and
wasteful spending by state government.
But it’s not the fat-cat politicians and their buddies that are likely to take the hit.
It’s abused women and children, the mentally ill, the physically disabled and the
And these people are not just going to vanish.
There will be a cost if funds for these programs are further cut, both in cash and
Rauner talked in his inaugural speech about a shared sacrifice. But you know who is
really going to feel the pain.
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423