Budget impasse forces painful social service cuts in Southern Illinois

Photograph of Boys and Girls Club Program

Students from the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club help plant a tree at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center. The Boys and Girls Club is one of several agencies that serve area children coping with loss of state funds due to the Illinois budget impasse. Photo Southern Illinoisan.

Reports from state social service providers are painting a grim picture for the most vulnerable due to the Illinois budget stalemate, now entering its fifth month. The effects are particularly hard for Southern Illinoisans who are disproportionately affected by poverty. Here’s a look at the numbers.

ACROSS THE BOARD

Throughout Illinois, 84% of human services agencies in the state have had to turn clients away. This is a 50 percent increase since July 1, when the fiscal year began without a state budget. 79% of agencies have had to cut programs. 31% have less than a month’s worth of cash left, and 8% have used up all of their savings.

AT-RISK YOUTH

The loss of funding for programs for at-risk youth has affected three regional agencies, Attucks Community Service, The Boys & Girls Club, and Caritas Family Solutions. Caritas ended a program for youth at risk of commitment to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice according to Regional Director Michelle Bradley. Statewide, the Redeploy Illinois program has helped 1,309 youth avoided incarceration since it began in 2005. The Franklin County Juvenile Detention center also ended its meth treatment program July 15.

CHILDCARE

Childcare for working families has been one of the most significant losses in the budget impasse. Eligibility requirements were changed for the Child Care Assistance Program, which provides state-subsidized daycare to low-income, working parents. This has resulted in 4,727 families denied services between July 1st and September 30th. New applicants in a two-person family can earn only up to $664 a month to qualify. In the state of Illinois, infant care typically costs 75 percent of a minimum wage salary.

In the southern fifteen counties, 317 families/ 497 children have been denied child care assistance as of Oct. 30, according to Lori Longueville, director of Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Ninety percent of recipients work full-time.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES

In Southern Illinois, one domestic violence shelter, Stopping Woman Abuse Now, Inc., in Olney, closed. People Against Violent Environments in Centralia closed for two months. It was later paid for services provided last year, and now operates on a limited basis. The Women’s Center, Inc. one of the first domestic violence shelters in the United States, and the region’s main provider of domestic violence services and advocacy, will be forced to close if the impasse stretches into 2016, according to Executive Director Cathy McClanahan. Up to 75,000 people could be impacted in some way from the loss of domestic violence services statewide.

MENTAL HEALTH & SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT

The loss of a state grant has affected roughly 140 centers that offer mental health services and substance abuse treatment. Three regional providers have been impacted by the loss of Psychiatric Leadership Capacity Grant, including the Delta Center in Cairo, which closed in September. The Family Counseling Center in Cairo took over the state permits for three of the eight Delta Center properties and retained 35 percent of its staff in August, but it was forced to make its own cuts in October. 35 employees were laid off or had their hours reduced, and the center depleted a 90-day reserve that was set aside for budget delays.

The largest behavioral treatment provider in the region, Centerstone, is no longer able to provide crisis treatment for adults over the age of 21 without insurance, according to Jean Alstat, crisis and community services director. Crisis treatment provides care for those at risk of suicide, homicide, or a psychotic break, Alstat explained at the October Community Forum: Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale. The agency has reduced hours at the crisis center, and cut 17 staff positions across the board.

HOMELESSNESS

Statewide, 90% of homeless services providers have had to deny assistance to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. 32% of homeless service providers have already closed sites as a result of the state budget impasse.

Two regional homeless service providers reported that they are going week to week, unsure of how long they will be able to keep doors open. Good Samaritan Ministries Executive Director Mike Heath and Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Camille Doris gave reports on the state of their agencies at the October Community Forum Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale. Good Samaritan’s soup kitchen came within a week of closing this month. A call for emergency donations from the community kept it afloat. Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless recently took out a loan to pay make payroll, reduced staff hours, sold off property that would have been used to house the homeless, and deferred repairs.

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ADDITIONAL PROGRAM LOSSES

To learn about additional service losses in Southern Illinois, including reductions in funding for college students, seniors, energy assistance programs, and health departments see our list here. –Marleen Shepherd

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