Since July 1, the State of Illinois has operated without a budget. As we've written before, this has caused extensive damage to the state's human service sector and the vulnerable populations it serves. As the deadlock over the budget enters its eighth month, the United Way of Illinois has released the results of its third survey of service providers since the budget crisis began. Between January 6th and January 13th, 444 human services agencies across the state provided responses. The results of the survey illustrate how harmful the inaction of Illinois' lawmakers has been for those who depend on the state for basic survival needs.
As of January 13th, 85% of responding agencies have been forced to make cuts to the number of clients served, a 51% increase since July. 84% responding agencies have cut programs, with mental health and disability programming being the most heavily impacted. Financially, 23% of agencies report they will struggle to operate at existing levels if the budget impasse continues through March. Nearly half (49%) of agencies in Illinois have tapped into their cash reserves, and 26% have utilized lines of credit. Of those who have utilized credit, the average loan is $300,000 per agency. 27% of agencies have laid off staff, further impacting the vitality of the state's economy.
As in October, Housing Forward has not been forced to resort to the same extreme measures as many other service providers. However, what we wrote then still holds true:
"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":