Social Service Providers, Their Needy Clients Brace For State Budget Uncertainty

(CBS) — In just three weeks, the Illinois stopgap budget runs out — and so will funding for dozens of service agencies that provide for the needy.

CBS 2 Political Editor Derrick Blakley looks at the social impact of the budget stalemate.

For years, the shelter at the People’s Church in Uptown provided reliable refuge for homeless men.

“It’s been like a lighthouse for people. They know where to go when they need help,” says Richard Ducatenzeiler of North Side Housing & Supportive Services.

Now, they’re packing up fans and heaters and even carting the TV away. The shelter is shutting down.

“At the end of December, we don’t have a state budget, we don’t know what’s going to happen in January. We can’t afford to float the cost for this program without being reimbursed,” Ducatenzeiler says.

When the budget stalemate began last year, Lutheran Social Services cut homecare for adult seniors, mental health and drug abuse programs — $20 million in all — just to stay afloat.

“We would not be here today if we had not made those decisions,” Mark Stutrud says.

This time, like the homeless shelter, providers who are dependent on the stopgap budget may not survive.

“They will not be paid going forward. They’ll be in the same shape they were before the stopgap,” Stutrud says.

The state’s overdue bills are only growing. In October 2015, the state owed social service agencies $158 million. By last October, it was $251 million.

For Stutrud, it’s no surprise that the budget standoff hurt the neediest the worst.

“We look at the individual who is in need, at risk, as being a liability. And really, we should view all Illinoisans as assets,” he says.

Of course, many social service agencies were in exactly the same spot, just six months ago, when the stopgap budget was adopted. For them, it’s déjà vu all over again.

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