The Illinois Department of Human Services made a colossal announcement Feb. 18, stating that it would slash $208 million from its current fiscal year’s budget. Since then, the amount has been reduced to $100 million due to the “finding” of federal dollars to plug some of the gaps.
With little media coverage, the cuts might seem to have flown under the radar, but workers in the social services say the effects could be felt for a long time to come. At the beginning of this fiscal year, allocations for alcohol- and substance-abuse programs were substantially curtailed, and funding for many other health and human services programs has been sharply decreased.
Kelly Kraft, director of communications for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said that DHS recently reported to the office of Governor Pat Quinn that many slated reductions had not in fact been made, so what may now appear to be new cuts are in fact the implementation of reductions that were supposed to have been made throughout this fiscal year.
Ms. Kraft also said that the cuts have now been reduced from $208 million to $100 million. “We’ve found more federal dollars,” she said. Ms. Kraft said, though, that in order to cut this amount from its budget, DHS will not be able to fill any deficiencies in staff or expand on any programs.
By mid-month, DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler will notify the affected organizations with a letter announcing where the cuts will be made, Ms. Kraft said.
“It’s pretty draconian,” said Martha Arntson, executive director of the social service agency Childcare Network of Evanston. Although CNE holds annual benefits, most of their funding comes from the State and federal government. With the proposed cuts in human services at the state level, Ms. Arntson said 8 percent of families of two who are in poverty may be cut off from the help of CNE, “Families will fall off this cliff,” she said.
Don Baker, executive director at Youth Organizations Umbrella, said their funding from the State will end as of March 15. Y.O.U. currently has a contract with the State but he said, “they can terminate at their choice.” Y.O.U. receives $100,000 a year from State funding, but Mr. Baker said the current proposed budget includes nothing for them.
“This would force us to totally rethink our programs,” Mr. Baker said. He said in the event that they receive no money in the next year, Y.O.U. would have to find new sources of funding or scale back its programs.
Karen Singer, executive director of the Evanston YWCA, said, “[The cuts] hugely impact us … They will be cutting 18 to 39 percent of what we currently receive.” Ms. Singer also said in the past two years funding for the YWCA has been cut 20 percent and these new reductions will slash their funding from the state to 50 percent of what it was previously.
“The money is used to fund core domestic violence services,” Ms. Singer said, “These services aren’t optional for some women.”
So far, Ms. Singer said she has had to let some staff go. “We are trying not to impact the services,” she said. However, the larger the decrease in staff, the greater impact it will have on their ability to help women, she said.
Ms. Singer has contacted people around the state, including Sen. Dick Durbin’s office, “to let them know what this looks like on the ground.” Acting as an advocate on behalf of victims of domestic violence, “we are making our voices heard,” she said. Speaking about the legislature and the impact of the cuts, Ms. Singer said, “It’s not like they don’t know, I mean, we’ve been screaming about it.”