Some social service agency officials have said that the state having a budget – after more than 2 years – will not resolve serious funding issues and concerns about long-term viability.
“When we think about now having a state budget, it doesn’t necessarily mean our ship has come in and everything is now great,” said Ann Fisher Raney, CEO of the Skokie -based mental health services provider Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center. “We’ve come through a period of so much ambiguity and confusion, and making decisions has been really challenging. There still will be challenges ahead.”
Illinois got a budget in July after going 736 days without one.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the Democrat-backed spending plan that included an income tax increase, but the Legislature voted successfully July 6 to override his veto.
But how the spending plan will impact non-profits remains to be seen, according to some officials of those organizations – which are usually health or social service providers.
The agencies will still have to grapple with significant funding challenges with or without a state budget, they said.
Turning Point, a non-profit outpatient mental health center serving Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Lincolnwood and Evanston, has maintained programs over the past couple years even though times have been difficult, according to the organization’s Chief Financial Officer Marsha Hahn.
“We’ve been determined to innovate and find initiatives that we can begin to do that create more financial stability because they are more in our control,” she said.
Still, not having a state budget, she said, dings away at the confidence in which social service agencies like Turning Point depend on to make planning decisions for the future.
“A state budget gives us more ground to stand on in order to move forward, and more confidence to take some risks to develop new ways to serve the people we’re supposed to serve, “ Hahn said.
Over the last 2 years, Turning Point grants totaling about $571,000 from the state were eliminated, Hahn said. But it’s difficult to know whether that funding would have been included had there been a budget those years, she said.
About $130,000 of that funding – one of the grants – was restored for fiscal year 2017 and will be handed out again in fiscal year 2018, according to Hahn. A larger grant covering psychiatry services will not be restored, she said.
Still, Turning Point recently announced new psychiatric services available to clients ages 18 and over once they are established in agency outpatient services, said Raney.
Although the state budget did not factor into the start up of these services, Illinois having a spending plan in general is important, Raney said.
“The way I interpret the significance of having a state budget is now we have a stronger obligation for the state to fulfill paying its promised grant funds to us,” Raney said. “The tax increase means there are resources that will allow there to be state money that comes to us.”
Unlike Turning Point, CJE SeniorLife, which serves the elderly in Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles and Skokie, had to close a program earlier this year.
For eligible older adults, CJE once provided personal care services at home through a subsidized program for low-income seniors administered by the Illinois Department on Aging. The services included assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing, errands, light housekeeping, meal preparation and respite, officials said.
“This was an extremely heart-wrenching decision for our board and senior leadership team,” CJE SeniorLife President and CEO Mark Weiner said when the decision to cut the program was made.
CJE officials have not announced plans to restore the program even with the state’s adoption of an appropriations plan. Those who were using the program were transitioned to other providers at the time, according to the Illinois Department on Aging.
CJE officials said that since July 2016, the non-profit had been reimbursed less that 40 percent of what it was owed by the state.
Under-funding out of Springfield continues to be a challenge for all social service providers, advocates lament.
Every year, non-profits apply to Skokie Community Development Block Grant funding that is provided by the federal government but distributed by the village. Although the program is intended mostly for brick-and-mortar projects, village officials said agencies in recent years have asked for more general programming grants because of state cuts.
“The need is great, some would say gargantuan,” said Skokie mayor George Van Dusen. “The resources are limited.”
This year, the village had to eliminate $50,000 from public service activity requests that social services agencies made.
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