By: Scott Kuczynski, Senior at University of Wisconsin, Political Science major
Read part 1 in this budget series here. In part 2 of this Illinois budget series we take a closer look at the future outlook of the state Early Intervention program.
The ongoing budget impasse has had profound consequences on nonprofits throughout the state of Illinois. Court orders, laws and federal money have funded many state services and programs. However, 10.6% of the budget currently remains unfunded as the state is not authorized to spend money on these programs without a budget in place. These unfunded programs primarily involve higher education and human services which include child care and many other grant funded programs. Up to this point, there’s been a lack of urgency between the two sides in resolving the budget impasse sparking fears that a budget won’t be reached into the spring or much later.
Unfortunately, the prospect of ending the budget impasse early in 2016 looks bleak. This concern is confirmed by Illinois State Representative Patricia R. Bellock who notes:
“My most important priority in 2016 is to help pass a responsible budget that meets our essential priorities in securing a safety net for the most vulnerable children and families in our community.
Budget negotiations are still ongoing, but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March. The reality that we work with is we cannot tax our way out or cut our way out of this budget shortfall. A balanced budget can only be achieved with a responsible combination of new revenue and long overdue reforms and agreement by the leaders of the General Assembly and the Governor.”
The budget stalemate has created an atmosphere of uncertainty in Springfield that has trickled down to individuals in need, human service agencies and communities causing permanent harm in the process.
What can you do?
One of the most important things you can do is to communicate the importance of Early Intervention and reaching a budget agreement to State Representatives (Click here for Legislature Mailing List).
This involves emphasizing the importance of keeping Early Intervention funding at current levels. Previously there were discussions in Springfield of potentially raising the definition of a developmental delay from 30% to 50%. Increasing the definition of developmental delay would deny thousands of children early intervention services in Illinois.
Early Intervention is a crucial program serving more than 20,000 infants and toddlers from birth to three-years old. In addition to the developmental benefits of Early Intervention for children, it’s critical that policy makers understand the fiscal benefits the Early Intervention program provides. Potentially restricting eligibility for Early Intervention will escalate the number of children who need more intensive and costly services in the future. It’s estimated that every $1 spent in Early Intervention saves up to $17 in future costs. By conveying to our elected officials the importance of Early Intervention services we can help ensure its proper standing in the next 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.
Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.