Since July 1st, service providers like Housing Forward have not received funding from the State of Illinois because of the state budget impasse. As the deadlock over the budget enters its fifth month, there are very real consequences associated with the failure of legislators to simply begin negotiations, let alone reach an agreement. Last week, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago released a survey of human services providers throughout the state, and the outlook is bleak.
Of the 544 responding agencies (of which Housing Forward was one), 84% have cut the number of clients they serve (an increase of 50% since the same survey administered in July), and 79% have cut programs. 31% of the agencies have less than one month of cash reserves remaining, and 25% have already been forced to tap lines of credit to keep the lights on in their agencies. Finally, more than 1 out of every five responding agencies has had to lay off staff to remain afloat.
Because Housing Forward has an extremely diverse funding base, and is not wholly dependent on any one funder, it has not had to resort to the extreme measures outlined above. However, we are beginning to see the ripple effect caused by the situation. We have begun turning away individuals at our shelter door because we are reaching capacity every night. The lack of state prevention dollars also hinders our capacity to stop families in need of assistance from becoming homeless. As childcare subsidies have been reduced by 90%, we've seen more families in the PADS Shelter at one time than in any other six-week period during the program's 24-year history. As mental-health providers reduce staff and cut available programming, more individuals with severe mental illness are ending up at our front door. The examples go on and on, but one thing is clear...the longer powerbrokers in the state use the most vulnerable residents as bargaining chips, the more dire the situation will get.
Aside from the staggering human costs, inaction is digging the state into an even deeper financial hole. While cutting and withholding payments to human service providers that are providing preventative programming saves money right now, the costs are simply shifted to more costly taxpayer-funded institutions like jails and public hospitals.
While many people are split on what the right direction for Illinois is, it is clear that doing nothing is not an option. To contact your elected officials and let them know that you will not tolerate continued inaction, please use the link below: