Budget impasse impacts Neighborhood House, Kumler
By Paul Black
SPRINGFIELD – The inability of state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner to develop a state budget has created major havoc for social service agencies that provide services to the poor and most vulnerable segments of the state’s population.
With the beginning of a new fiscal year without a budget, funding for several programs have been slashed including the Child Care Assistance program operated by the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis. And programs such as GED programs and pharmaceutical assistance offered by Kumler Outreach Ministries in Springfield are either shut down or severely cut.
Child care assistance
The Child Care Assistance Program gives thousands of Illinois parents the opportunity to work, to go to school, and to create better futures for their families. In fact subsidizing the cost of child care means that 160,000 children, in every city across the state are in safe, reliable care that their parents could otherwise not afford.
As of July 1, the Governor drastically changed the eligibility requirements of the Child Care Assistance Program. As a result thousands of parents will no long be able to obtain affordable child care and as a result will not be able to obtain or maintain needed employment. For example, beginning July 1, a family of three must earn less than $10,045 to enroll in the program and be a new applicant.
The lower income eligibility combined with a freeze in funding is causing a destabilizing effect to families. The agency is asking persons to contact the Governor and advocate that the decision be reversed.
“Research clearly shows that parents who receive the child care subsidy are more stable workers,” said Bill Kreeb, president and CEO of Neighborhood House. “Without adequate childcare, parents can lose or be forced to quit their jobs to care for their children. High-quality early learning programs are linked to long-term benefits - including kindergarten readiness, higher high school graduation rates, higher lifetime incomes and reduced rates of teenage pregnancy and juvenile delinquency – particularly for low-income children.”
Kreeb said Neighborhood House has helped hundreds of parents over the summer obtain needed employment but now if they are working full time and making only minimum wage they will not be eligible under the Governor’s new eligibility requirements.
Pharmaceuticals and GED
Also among the cuts which went into effect July 1 are medicine grants and funding for GED programs.
Kumler’s state grant which is used in its pharmaceutical program that obtains needed and critical medication at a reduced cost, has been cut in half and the GED program, which helps persons obtain their high school diploma has been shut down and would not be able to reopen before December if an agreement is reached immediately.
“Tough choices will have to be made about our medicine program–the probability of laying off staff; stretching limited funds to cover a full year; and curtailing how much money we can spend on each person even as drug prices increase,” said Sharon Brown, executive director of Kumler Outreach Ministries. “And we still don’t know when we’ll get our state funding or if we might face a further reduction.”
Brown noted the conference’s partnership has been critical in weathering these times. “Every day we see people who are facing challenges we may have never experienced, and just as we do our best to help these neighbors who are struggling, we know we can count on you as we face our own challenges,” she said. “With your help and support, we will persevere–just like the people we help–and it will take more than a state budget stalemate to change that.”