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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Social Service Providers Bracing For Severe Illinois Budget Cuts | April 20 2011 Progress Illinois

(click headline for webpage) or http://progressillinois.com/posts/content/2011/04/20/social-service-providers-bracing-budget-cuts

Progress Illinois; Sally Ho; Wednesday April 20th

As the consequences of the federal budget cuts become clearer, the aftershocks of state budget cuts in Illinois are starting to be felt throughout the state. From an organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet to a clinic for people with developmental disabilities to an AIDS medication assistance program -- these organizations and programs worry about their clients. And they worry if they'll be able to stay open.

Starting in July, the Illinois Department of Public Health plans to restrict access to its AIDS Drug Assistance Program, limiting assistance to those with incomes at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. That means a person would have to make no more than $32,670 annually to qualify, instead of the current $54,450, according to a Windy City Times report. The program, funded by state and federal money, currently provides HIV medication -- which can cost $18,000 per year -- to 4,200 people in the state. In 2009, Gov. Pat Quinn redirected $7 million to save the program from collapse, but new budget restrictions will mean an estimated $1.8 million deficit in 2012. Around 100 people could be cut loose from the program.

Another program on the brink is Casa Central, a group in Humboldt Park that runs La Posada, a temporary housing program that hosts about 70 homeless families a year. The program helps adults in the families achieve vocational training. Families can stay in the program for up to five months and less than 10 percent of the families La Posada helps become homeless again. Because Casa Central relies heavily on government funding (85 percent of their budget), the group has had to look to private funding sources and other creative fundraising measures, such as this month’s Wrigley Early Start Run.

Meanwhile, the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Developmental Disabilities Family Clinics on Chicago's West Side faces closure as 90 percent of the clinics' funding comes from a $1.2 million state grant that is no longer a part of Quinn’s proposed budget. The Tribune highlighted these cuts earlier this week:
In total, the proposed 2012 Illinois budget cuts $76.3 million from community services for people with developmental disabilities, according to The Arc of Illinois. That includes defunding the UIC clinics and a program that provides respite care for parents of children with developmental disabilities, and slashing $56 million from group homes, day centers and employment programs.
What remains to be seen is how the budget will deal with the 1,260 clients -- 90 percent of whom are uninsured or on Medicaid or Medicare -- these clinics serve, should the state move ahead with this cut.

When the UIC clinic loses it’s funding come June 30th, there will be few options left. Private funding sources, The Arc of Illinois’ executive director Tony Paulauski said, won’t be able to provide the stability it would need. And private pay isn’t an option because the specialized clinic primarily serves minorities and the poor. “When you have a bilingual staff, you can have a speech therapist who speaks Spanish and also [knows] intellectual disabilities,” Paulauski said. “When you take a hit like that, you're slashing programs or you're closing.”

Calling Illinois -- ranked 47th in the nation for community funding -- a “stingy state” when it comes to important services for those with disabilities, Paulauski said social services groups everywhere will hurt the most from the 6 percent cut in the Medicaid rate by which agencies are reimbursed. This is in combination with the notorious backlog of debt the state owes to social services numbering in the billions, with back-payment averaging six months or more. Waiting on half a year’s worth of reimbursements can equate to some 50 percent of a group's budget, Paulauski said. The developmental disabilities system alone is owed $500 million. “Many families who have children with disabilities, only one spouse is working because the other is doing the daycare,” Paulauski said. “They were asking ‘what will we do?’”

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