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At State Representative Robyn Gabel’s recent town hall meeting on the State budget, nearly 100 constituents and citizens came to share their concerns about the state budget impasse and hear stories from both individuals and agencies impacted by the lack of a state budget.
I shared a budget update and a plan for how we can pass a balanced budget and protect our most vulnerable citizens. Through court orders and statutorily required payments, the state continues to operate. However, it is on a path to spend $5 billion more than it is expected to generate in revenue because of the decrease in the tax rate. Reinstating the previous tax rate will bring us very close to a balanced budget.
Although the governor continues to hold the state budget hostage in an effort to pass his non budget agenda, last week he rescinded his previous draconian rule that only allowed people to earn $686 a month to qualify for child assistance. However, until there is a budget, 5,000 families who earn slightly above the minimum wage will still not qualify. The Governor responded to pressure from the thousands of families affected by his cuts.
The budget is not a political game, but a real struggle over values that will have major implications on the lives of thousands of residents. It is not just a number on a page, but something that can literally mean the difference between life and death for some very vulnerable residents.These feelings were echoed by the many brave speakers who came to share their stories.
Beatriz Cabrera, an Evanston resident, expressed her difficulties in getting childcare assistance so she can work a full time job.
Helen Hurry of Family Focus shared how her organization has lost 10% of their budget and can’t provide court mandated family parenting classes.
Kim Robinson of Kahari House is worried that they will have to close their doors if the budget impasse continues.
Ken Ruger and Kelli Bembong, shared their personal experiences and expressed gratitude for being assisted by Connections for the Homeless.
Sue Loellbach of Connections for the Homeless is at the end of her line of credit and is relying on her annual appeal to continue operations. The Connections program for homelessness prevention program has been cut. This program was instrumental in keeping families in their homes when they had short term difficulties covering their rent. One of Connections clients shared how difficult life is without the drop in center that was cut from the Connections budget.
Sue Shimon of New Foundation explained how her agency has had to cut funding by 15% and group support has been cut by 50%. They are relying on dwindling savings.
Kate Mahoney of Peer Services, which treats mental illness and drug addiction, is only getting Federal money. Their waiting list is rapidly growing and they too are borrowing in order to maintain their current level of service even though demand is greater.
Susan Resko of the Josselyn Center has not had their grants renewed for the “Living Room”, affecting service to people who get services in a drop in setting which saves the state money by reducing emergency room costs. Susan says we are in a public health and safety crisis.
Paul Palian from Oakton Community College, together with students Nazish Baig and Layla Gubov, spoke on the effect of the cuts to the Monetary Award Program. This program is vital in providing access to higher education for lower income students. Oakton has been subsidizing students as best as possible but those funds are running out.
Bob Hewitt of Lutheran Social Services says his organization is operating off a line of credit and is worried about all social service agencies and if they will be able to recover and operate in the future, even after the budget is passed.
Debbie Fingerman stressed the importance of respite services and how they aid her family.
Many of these not for profit organizations have taken out lines of credit to keep their doors open. While banks have been understanding, these organizations will still have to repay these funds with interest, which will ultimately take away from operational capabilities once state funds have been restored.
Some progress is being made. Due to the work of many of the agencies and people at the meeting and in our district, the Governor has agreed to allow the Determination of Needs Score to remain at 29 allowing 10,000 people with disabilities and 24,000 seniors to continue to get home based services.
There is still much work to done in Springfield. I will continue to work with the Governor’s office and House leadership to craft a budget that is balanced, fair and creates an atmosphere for economic growth.