BELLEVILLE, IL (KPLR) – Social service agencies and small businesses caught in the middle of an Illinois state budget impasse warn the state is reaching a critical point. Millions of dollars are owed to Metro East agencies and firms which have not been paid by the state since July. Many provide critical services to those in need including newborns, juveniles in trouble, senior citizens with limited income and the disabled.
More than a dozen spoke out during a news conference in Belleville on Monday. The owner of the Golden Years Adult Daycare Center in Belleville said she is owed $180,000 by the state. Florence Holten-Gwynn fears she could lose her building if she cannot secure a new bank loan. "My banker says we have a cash flow problem and I'm not even late making payments. I said, 'Have you read the news? The governor has cut us off.' "
The executive director of East Side Health District Elizabeth Patton-Whiteside said she has already laid off 70% of her staff. "I have one nurse that's available to do communicable disease. What about bioterrorism?" She will shut down her agency's family case management unit on Friday. That staff serves 2000 citizens including new mothers and their babies.
Cheryl Compton, Executive Director of Call for Help Inc. is warning Governor Rauner and the legislators that if they shut down residential programs, "people are going to die. They are going to freeze to death on the streets. ". Call for Help Inc. provides behavioral health services including rape crisis clinics and clinics. Illinois does the agency $350,000. The program director for The Rape Crisis Center, Michelle Cates, said Monday "We are begging you for the sake of our most needy and vulnerable citizens this budget impasse must end now.”
Many of the meals on wheels programs also face cutbacks in services. They will begin by reducing weekly meals from 5 to 4. Free transportation in Metro East will also be put on hold. That will impact seniors trying to get to doctor appointments and even some employed persons who cannot drive.
Democratic State Rep. Jay Hoffman of Belleville said "let's sit down and talk about the budget not about how to decimate the middle class by taking away their right to collectively bargain.” He said what is needed is a combination of cuts and taxes. Hoffman said, "It should be a balanced approach.”
Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner said Monday he too was "frustrated by the cutbacks in social services.”
GOP Governor Rauner and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton have discussed a compromise over the state pension obligations. That is one of the critical parts of the budget discussion.
However Governor Rauner still wants significant structural changes in Illinois government in order to free up revenue to pay the social service bills. Rauner's State of the State speech comes on Wednesday. Lawmakers say they hope he offers a way to compromise over the budget impasse.
Democratic lawmaker, Representative Jay Hoffman is calling for a compromise.