The Budget Crisis – October 2015 Community Forum

Budget                                         Oct. 27, 2015

The fate of the most vulnerable and Southern Illinois’ social service providers in the ongoing budget stalemate was the focus of the October 2015 Community Forum: Challenges of Poverty in Carbondale.

The forum gathered major regional social service providers and civic leaders to discuss the impact to their services to vulnerable residents and the employment status of persons working in social service / government agencies. A list of local service agencies that have been adversely affected by the Illinois budget stalemate can be accessed here.

Panelists also addressed the sustainability of the social service infrastructure in Southern Illinois, which they say is in danger of collapse. Agencies are reporting that they will have to close if state funding is not restored by January. 87% of state social service providers have already made program cuts, and regional closures include one mental health and substance abuse service provider and one domestic violence shelter.

The second half of the forum was devoted to discussion about possible avenues for collective action. Suggestions from the panelists and audience included the call for immediate passage of a state budget and increased revenue. Already Southern Illinois social service providers report being underfunded, and many have seen state funds dwindle over the last several years.

Many in attendance expressed outrage that social services have become a political pawn in the budget stalemate, and asked that lawmakers make social services a priority. The representative for the Responsible Budget Coalition suggested several possible sources of new revenue.  Some audience members voiced support of HB 106, a financial transaction tax.

Photo of Ocotber Community by Jacob Wiegand, Daily Egyptian

“We are in an impasse right now, but the crisis has been actually growing for many years,” said Peter Lemish of SIU’s Imagining Geographies-Civic Soul, co-sponsor of the community forum on the budget impasse. “In that kind of situation, we are really the voices of some of the vulnerable people whose voices are not being heard here. We need to find a way that we can wake up this region and say, ‘Look this is the zero hour, we need to be acting collectively and let the legislator and the governor and those who are influential know that this region is not to be taken for granted.'” Photo Jacob Wiegand, Daily Egyptian

The forum was co-faciliated by Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry and Peter Lemish, of Southern Illinois University’s Imagining Geographies – Civic Soul. Panelists and social service and civic representatives who spoke included:

Jean Alstat, Crisis and Community Services Director, Centerstone (Panelist)

Jennifer Cushman, Field Coordinator & Policy Specialist, Responsible Budget Coalition (Panelist)

Camille Doris, Executive Director, Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless (Panelist)

Mike Heath, Executive Director, Good Samaritan Ministries (Panelist)

John Jackson, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute (Attendee)

Lori Longueville, Director Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College (Attendee)

Miriam Link-Mullison, Director of the Jackson County Health  Department (Attendee)

Gary Williams, Interim City Manager, City of Carbondale (Panelist)

For more information about the event, read the coverage by the Southern Illinois University student newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.

-Marleen Shepherd

Information on the Community Forum: The Community Forum series began in June 2015 as an initiative of the Sparrow Coalition and Imagining Geographies-Civic Soul, in partnership with the Carbondale Public Library and the Carbondale Interfaith Council. The series aims to advance ongoing understanding, discussion, and actions related to issues and consequences of poverty and homelessness.

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