With about 60 state-run facilities potentially on the chopping block,
including 24 Department of Health and Human Services offices and three
Department of Children and Family Support Service offices, a new report
warns that Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget could have a negative impact on Illinois’ neediest children and families.
released Thursday by Voices for Illinois
Children's Fiscal Policy Center details Illinois’ spending on programs such as education,
human services, Medicaid, and pensions since 2009.
In that time, the report warns, cuts to early childhood education have blocked about 18,000 children from accessing preschool programs. Meanwhile, DHS community and mental health programs have seen a 35 percent cut, and although Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funding has been pumped up due to an overwhelming amount of caseloads, access to that program has been restricted.
Additionally, the report shows that even though Quinn’s budget calls for a $20 million boost to early childhood education, the increase is still below 2009’s funding levels.
“It’s not only children who will be affected by these changes – although in a lot of ways they’re being disproportionately affected – but other vulnerable populations as well” Larry Joseph, director of the Fiscal Policy Center, told Progress Illinois. “Most of the programs we’re talking about are actually relatively small in terms of cost compared to other parts of the budget. To cut some of these programs is short sighted.”
In light of Illinois' current budget woes, which include about $8 billion in unpaid bills, the organization is urging state lawmakers to maintain funding levels for community and children’s education and health programs.
"A responsible state budget should reflect a balanced approach to setting policy priorities and allocating limited resources," Joseph said. "Although more budget cuts are inevitable, they must be targeted and strategic – reflecting shared sacrifice among all areas of state government. Policymakers should recognize that investing in opportunities for children, resources for vulnerable families, and supportive services for communities can yield long-term benefits for the entire state."
Some of those long-term benefits include a physically and mentally healthier and well-educated workforce for Illinois. In order to prevent any more cuts in these services, the report suggests that the state explore other avenues for funding, such as a “fund sweep” which would transfer unused money from other state funds in to the general pool. The report also suggests repealing the State Finance Act of 2009 to redirect money from Illinois’ road fund to finance more human services.
“Children are caught in the budget crossfire,” Joseph said. “Long-term investments for kids are being shortchanged.”
Joseph said Voices for Illinois Children will be issuing more reports between now and the end of this year’s legislative session. He said the upcoming reports will each focus on one of the topics more broadly covered in Thursday’s publication, such as the state’s pension obligations.