A Publication of WTVP

Over the last two years, the Heart of Illinois United Way’s 44 partner agencies have collectively lost more than $12 million in state and federal grants. At a recent United Way of Illinois meeting, it was reported that a significant percentage of health and human care agencies from across the state are reducing the number of clients they serve, depleting cash reserves and maxing out lines of credit.

These results are part of a survey conducted this summer by the United Way of Illinois, the statewide association of 52 local United Ways. Surveying more than 400 health and human care agencies with a wide variety of operating budgets and types of services provided, the survey was intended to better understand the steps agencies are taking to deliver services while dealing with decreased funding.

More than one third of the agencies surveyed have already cut the number of clients they serve. These cuts primarily affect services for early childhood education, mental health, emergency housing, senior services and employment training. Health and human care agencies also report they are increasing waitlists for services, referring clients to other agencies when possible, not filling vacant positions and laying off staff to maintain minimal operations.

As agencies struggle to serve an increased number of clients with less money, nearly 40 percent of the agencies surveyed are using cash reserves to continue operations, while another 24 percent are utilizing lines of credit. Since a majority of the agencies surveyed only have enough cash reserves for three months or less, it’s estimated that 19 percent will have depleted their reserves by the end of August.

Overall, it’s estimated that a majority of programs, especially those that impact children and working adults, have been cut upwards of 25 percent.

Health and human care agencies are critical to meeting basic human needs and ensuring the well-being of people in our community. In 2013, the poverty rate in Peoria County was 17 percent—2.4 percent higher than the state average—and more than 53 percent of children were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. In 2013, the federal government reduced SNAP benefits (food stamps) by $5 billion, impacting more than 47 million U.S. citizens. At the same time, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits in Peoria County alone increased, even though 75 percent of these recipients are employed. With additional cuts pending to LIHEAP (energy assistance), the low-income population in central Illinois could be forced to make difficult choices between food, medicine and shelter.

Because of the generosity and support from the residents of central Illinois, the Heart of Illinois United Way continues to be the largest non-governmental funder of health and human care services in central Illinois. While our annual campaign cannot fill a constant gap in funding, it makes our community-wide efforts more critical than ever. While we continually look at ways to collaborate and address vital needs, we can also further our goal to invest in programs that positively impact lives. iBi