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Illinois’ children, seniors, people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness are suffering as human service organizations cut essential programs, reduce hours and curtail levels of service in the face of the state’s budget crisis. In a new survey that gauges the impact of the crisis on critical services in Illinois communities, more than half of responding human service organizations report taking actions that reduce access to vital programs and services by reducing hours or levels of service.

Four in ten responding organizations report expanded waiting lists for services, and more than a quarter report that they have closed programs due to budget cuts. These cuts and closings come at a time when the need for human services is increasing, further exacerbating the gap between the demand and supply for human services across the state.

Illinois Partners for Human Service is calling on Illinois’ elected officials to work on a comprehensive, sustainable approach that solves the state’s financial crisis. There must be shared responsibility in finding a solution. Illinois’ children, seniors and other needy residents have already shouldered more than their fair share.

Here are some of the results from the 22-county North Central region, which includes all of central Illinois:

Survey Overview in North-Central Counties

Effects of the Crisis in North-Central Counties

In response to state budget cuts and delayed payments, 43 percent of responding organizations reduced their hours of operation or level of service, 33 percent of organizations grew their waiting lists, and 30 percent had to refer clients to other service providers with no guarantee that they’d be served. Another 27 percent of organizations closed programs outright, eliminating essential services and jobs in that community.

These findings were remarkably similar across Illinois, regardless of the region or size of the reporting organization. The cumulative impact of these actions is a significant reduction in the availability of human services in all parts of the state. These reductions threaten not only the immediate health and well-being of Illinois residents, but also the foundational infrastructure for service delivery in our state.

Strategies to Mitigate the Crisis in North-Central Counties

In order to mitigate state budget cuts and delayed payments, 68 percent of responding organizations tapped into cash reserves, and 59 percent tapped into additional lines of credit. For some organizations, these short-term solutions have stretched on for months at significant financial cost. For others, limited access to reserves and/or lines of credit restricted this as an option.

Sixty-five percent of responding organizations sought additional funding sources, often requiring program staff to refocus efforts away from service provision. Combined with the 48 percent that laid off employees, these organizations are severely hampered by both direct cuts and service reductions, as well as reallocating staff to non-service specific functions.

Among organizations that implemented layoffs, the average organization laid off 13 percent of its staff. Statewide, in comparison to larger organizations, smaller organizations laid off a larger percentage of their staff and were more likely to skip payroll, offer no raises or have salary reductions. Larger organizations were more likely to tap lines of credit. The uncertainty of the current environment, both for organizations as well as staff service providers, is adding additional strain to the already vulnerable human services infrastructure. A comprehensive, sustainable solution to the budget crisis is needed to put Illinois back on a path toward a sound financial future. iBi

The survey was sent to approximately 1,000 human service provider organizations, 282 of which responded statewide, over several weeks in October and November 2010. The survey was conducted by Illinois Partners for Human Service and Illinois Collaboration on Youth, and the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance assisted in analyzing and summarizing the survey data. Additional regional fact sheets are available at illinoispartners.org.

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