Quick Hit Op-Ed Wednesday April 8th, 2015, 5:55pm

Op-Ed: Thousands Call On Rauner To Undo Pound-Foolish Cuts To Important Investments

The following comes from the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Immigrant women in need of help securing orders of protection against abusive spouses. Elderly people seeking medical treatments. Autistic Illinoisans and their families. The disabled, the addicted, the young. When Governor Rauner took a last-minute knife to social service investments in this fiscal year's budget, he aimed for Illinois's most vulnerable populations--and he hit his mark. That was the message at a Wednesday rally at the Thompson Center, where the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) brought together hundreds of supporters representing a broad array of those who will suffer due to the Governor's suspension of a wide variety of spending that supports investments in some of Illinois's most underprivileged communities.

"What the Governor did, as the clock ran out on the Friday before a holiday weekend, is not just a slap in the face to the immigrant community after he stood with us earlier this year and told us how important we are to Illinois," said Lawrence Benito, CEO of ICIRR. "It's an affront to the millions of Illinoisans who rely on these investments in order to pursue self-sufficiency. These are cuts that enable economic success; cutting them is pennywise and pound-foolish. It's the height of irony: Governor Rauner, who portrays himself as a savvy businessman, seems oblivious to the returns on the state's investment in immigrant and other disadvantaged communities."

The funds suspended by the Rauner administration include the Immigrant Services Line Item, which funds grants to immigrant-serving organizations primarily in support of two programs. The first is the Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP), which engages agencies to help the State to fulfill its legal obligations to provide language-appropriate services by providing information and assistance, including interpretation and translation, to families interacting with state agencies.  The second program, the New Americans Initiative (NAI), promotes US citizenship and provides citizenship application assistance, important investments in light of the fact that median annual earnings for citizens are $20,000 above those for non-citizens.

Additionally, ISLI funds are critical to ensuring that Illinois immigrant-serving organizations have the capacity to provide a variety of other services, including sexual assault and healthcare counseling. And soon, these organizations will be helping Illinois immigrants sign up for the protections created by President Obama's executive actions. While those programs are on hold due to a federal court case, Illinois cannot afford to delay preparations while that case is being heard--on average, those who leave undocumented status add nearly $2,000 to their annual incomes, increasing their spending power and the State's tax revenues.

"Chicago is a city of diverse neighborhoods, and we all benefit from the enormous economic, cultural and civic contributions of our immigrant communities," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "To turn our backs on them is to turn our backs on our values as Illinoisans. I call on Governor Rauner to restore these important services and do what is right for immigrant families and for the economic future of Chicago and Illinois."    

The small amount of money--just $26 million in a state budget of billions--pays for outsized investments in people that too often do not get the support they deserve and the services they need. Immigrants, children, disabled friends and neighbors: these are the people who rely on the State to keep its word, just given a few weeks ago, that this funding would be preserved in this fiscal year. These surprise cuts fly in the face of what the General Assembly understood about the emergency budget passed late last month.

Activists assailed the remorselessness of cutting the funds for communities that too often bear the brunt of society's indifference, as well as the disingenuousness of praising these communities before blindsiding them with these suspensions. Indeed, just weeks ago, the Governor spoke at a summit of immigrant-serving organizations, where he said that when he sees immigrants take the citizenship oath, he is moved to tears. Yet the services that enable immigrants to take that oath are among those cut down by the suspensions. The Governor, in the estimation of those at the rally, has made clear his priorities, which don't include the diverse kinds of people that make Illinois great and help drive its economic and cultural vibrancy. They had a simple message for him: "We are essential."

Others were mystified by the economics of the Governor's move, pointing out that cutting investments that promise multiple returns will only worsen the State's finances in the long term. In total the suspensions affect roughly $26 million across the Departments of Public Health and of Human Services. Among the monies at stake are funds for a variety of youth services, including $3.1 million for TeenREACH, an after-school group that provides comprehensive programming for youth ages 6-17 years old, as well as funding for the Early Intervention Program for children ages 0-3 years old with developmental delays. Youth in Illinois are among best investments the State can make. They are pure potential, but without necessary services, that potential not only goes to waste--it can turn into more money spent on services in the future.

The suspended funds also include support for a variety of disability services, hurting those who can least afford the pain. The disabled community depends on the services that fell under the Governor's axe; those services help disabled Illinoisans become independent and to realize the full potential of their contributions to society.

The full list of cuts includes:


-- Funeral & Burial, $6.9 million

-- Immigrant Integration Services, $3.4 million

-- Welcoming Centers, $191,300

-- ARC Lifespan, $118,100

-- Best Buddies, $250,000

-- Autism, $1 million

-- Group Home Loans, $20,000

-- Compulsive Gambling, $406,000

-- Westside Health, $94,200

-- Addiction Prevention, $1.6 million

-- Assistance for Homeless, $300,000

-- Community Services, $2 million

-- Teen REACH, $3.1 million

-- Coalition F/Tech Assist-Child, $250,000

-- For Children's Health Program, $231,600

-- Outreach to Individuals to Engage in Services, $380,700

-- Regions Special Consumer Support, $277,700

-- SMRF Training, $420,100

-- Transportation, $43,900

-- DD Latino Outreach, $87,500

-- Microboard Development and Outreach, $47,500

-- Epilepsy, $514,700


-- Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS, $789,800

-- Increasing Access to Health Care-Wellness on Wheels, $180,000

-- Wellness on Wheels - Mobile Administration 2015, $135,000

-- Illinois Tobacco Quitline, $3.1 million

-- Project Safe Sleep Education and Outreach, $250,000

-- MidAmerica Regional Public Health Leadership Institute, $75,000

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visitwww.icirr.org.


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