Marcus Washburn, 6, makes a drip painting Friday at Children's Home + Aid's Scott Early Learning Center in Bloomington. Staff members hope the new state budget may result in more families being eligible for early childhood education services.


BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinois human services agencies — many enduring more than two years of being paid late or less than was owed by the state for some services — applauded the state's first budget since June 2015 but warned the damage that's already been done can't be reversed.

"We applaud all of the legislators who finally took a stand and said 'enough is enough' and voted to override the governor's veto," said Liz German of YWCA McLean County. "This is a step in the right direction and was completely necessary to avoid additional catastrophic (human services agency) shutdowns and financial repercussions."

The Legislature overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner's vetoes this week to enact a $36 billion budget and a 32 percent income tax increase. Even with $5 billion in new tax revenue and $2 billion in cuts, the budget leaves the state with a $6.2 billion deficit and a backlog of $14.7 billion in unpaid bills.

"In reality, the budget being passed doesn't change our current situation," German added. "The damage has been done; we have closed and scaled back services and laid off a significant number of staff."

As of a month ago, YWCA was owed $400,000. The agency has laid off several employees and reduced services, including eliminating Medivan transportation services.

"As a provider in social services, I am happy to see that this has passed," said Cheryl Gaines of Collaborative Solutions Institute.

"The question is, 'Is it too little, too late?'" asked Gaines, whose agency is owed $29,900 by the state, has not replaced two employees who left and reduced hours of a domestic violence offender counselor. Whether agencies will be paid what they are owed by the state is unknown, she said.

The good news is "hopefully, we and other organizations will begin to receive timely payments and can begin to rebuild," German said.

LIFE Center for Independent Living is owed $122,546 by the state, said LIFE-CIL's Gail Kear. "We await word whether any of this will be repaid to us."

"We continue to operate with 10 percent fewer staff we had before the budget impasse and we have continued to squeeze our nickels until they cry," Kear said. "I admire the courage of both Democrats and Republicans in both houses who are willing to vote for the needs of all their constituents."

"It is not yet clear what our funding level will be ... but we will appreciate being able to plan ahead," Kear said.

The Baby Fold is owed $521,000 by the state. Baby Fold's previously announced closure of its residential treatment center took effect June 30, affecting 14 children and 43 full- and part-time employees.

"The discontinuation of this service was due to not only the budget impasse and lack of payment but the fact that (the state Department of Children and Family Services) has frozen the level of payments to providers of residential services for 10-plus years," said Baby Fold's Dianne Schultz.

"I am relieved that there was recognition by Democrats and some Republicans that the most important thing for the state at this point was to finalize a budget," Schultz said. "This provides some level of certainty in planning operations for social service agencies."

Children's Home + Aid, whose Healthy Start and Butterfly Project programs have been reduced, is owed $200,000, said the agency's Lisa Pieper.

Mid Central Community Action is owed $270,000 for its Countering Domestic Violence Program, which resulted in the program depleting its reserves and cutting a position, said MCCA Executive Director Deborah White.

MCCA continues to seek more support from nongovernmental sources and innovative partnership with other agencies, White said.

Easterseals Central Illinois, which let go several employees earlier this year, is owed $490,000.

East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging Executive Director Susan Real applauded legislators "who worked across the aisle in the spirit of service and compromise." Appropriations include an 8 percent cut to Department on Aging operations, increases to the Illinois Community Care Program and an increase to the Home Delivered Meals line item, she said.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech


Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

Load comments