By: Scott Kuczynski, Senior at University of Wisconsin, Political Science major
Illinois is entering its seventh month without a state budget. A lack of a budget for this extended period of a time is unprecedented in the state’s history. The prolonged stalemate has resulted from political and ideological differences between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature.
Negotiations between the lawmakers have made little progress since the July 1, 2015 budget deadline as there is very little middle ground between the two sides.
This is confirmed by Illinois State Representative, Patricia R. Bellock, who notes, “Budget negotiations are still ongoing but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March.” There’s concern in the state that the budget impasse could continue well into the spring or not at all as Governor Bruce Rauner and Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, have been unable to make progress towards a budget compromise.
Despite the lack of a budget, the state is currently receiving a majority of its funding due to court orders, laws and federal money. This has funded 89.4% of the total budget, leaving the remaining 10.6% unfunded. The unfunded percentage primarily consists of higher education and human services such as child care and many other grant funded programs. This has put enormous strain on nonprofits, many of whom are receiving delayed payments from the state and operating on the premise that they’ll be paid back for human services provided.
Until that time, many nonprofits are forced to make tough decisions which have already resulted in cutting the number of clients they serve, cutting staff, utilizing their full cash reserves, and tapping into lines of credit to continue operations. In order to avoid further irreparable long-term consequences for human services agencies across Illinois, it’s critical that the state reaches a budget agreement as soon as possible.
Budget Stalemate effects:
The lack of a state budget has created uncertainty and put tremendous stress on nonprofits during the past seven months. United Way of Illinois recently released a survey of human service agencies across Illinois putting the impact of the budget impasse into perspective. The survey describes the impact on individuals and communities as:
- 85% of agency respondents have cut the number of clients they serve, up from 34% in July.
- 84% of agency respondents have cut programs, most impacting children and working adults.
The survey also reveals the fiscal condition of many human services agencies has deteriorated since the budget impasse, forcing these agencies to take measures to ensure the continuation of operations for their clients:
- 49% of agencies have tapped into their cash reserves
- 26% of agencies have tapped into lines of credit.
- Taking on a combined $35 million in debt
- The average credit extension taken on by respondents was $300,000
- 27% of agencies have laid off staff as a result of the budget impasse.
The protracted budget stalemate has caused lasting long-term impacts on human services throughout Illinois. Some agencies have already closed their doors while others are in danger of doing the same the longer the budget impasse endures. They have continued to operate in an atmosphere of uncertainty over delayed payments and potential cuts to critical programs.
What does this mean for Easter Seals Dupage & Fox Valley?
One of the biggest concerns for Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is the uncertainty in relation to the State Early Intervention program and whether Early Intervention will face small or large cuts in a potential budget. Early Intervention programs are essential to enhancing the development of children across Illinois and their services are considered 2 ½ times less costly than special education services in preschool and elementary years. Lawmakers need to recognize the importance of the Early Intervention services and reflect its significance in a final budget agreement. Here’s what you can do:
- Email Governor Rauner through his constituent page and let him know you oppose potential Early Intervention cuts:
- Email/fax/call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators to let them know the importance of protecting the Early Intervention program! Don’t know who your rep is? You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site:
- Include signature with printed name, address, phone number and legislative district if you know it. Include a picture of your family too; we think your statement will be even more impactful.
- Send a letter to your Legislator.
- Continue to raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #EImatters.
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley remains committed to continuing services. While we are committed to service continuity, we question our ability to do this if the budget stalemate continues. It’s also important to understand how the budget impasse might be impacting families and human services throughout the state.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series about the budget outlook. Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.