With the continued generosity and support of thousands of people in central Illinois, the Heart of Illinois United Way remains a reliable and steady funding source for our 46 partner agencies. However, a March 2017 survey by our state association shows the overall negative impact of our state's budget impasse on the health and human care sector. For services rendered in the current fiscal year, 69 percent of agencies have received no payment, or only partial payment.

Since the last stopgap budget expired in December 2016, agencies across Illinois have reported reducing the number of clients they serve. With reductions from senior services to childhood education, the largest cuts are being made in disability services, housing and shelter, employment and job training, mental health and youth development programs. Overall, 49 percent of agencies have reduced services and 25 percent have cut programs.

While the state's temporary budget will provide some relief to health and human care agencies, it does not repair the long-term effects of the funding impasse, nor does it help restore deep cuts to funding that had already been in effect for several years prior.

Due to the continued lack of funding, health and human care agencies are often forced to make unsustainable fiscal decisions to remain operational. United Way of Illinois reports that 47 percent of agencies have not filled vacant positions, leading to a reduction in clients served; 45 percent of agencies are utilizing cash reserves, putting the agencies at risk in cases of emergency; and 27 percent have increased their waitlists for clients.

As clients of health and human care programs are put onto waitlists, and programs are cut or eliminated, the current lack of access to vital services could have a major impact on our economy for years to come. Supporting essential services that foster financial stability, increase educational attainment, and promote access to physical and mental health services is far better at reducing poverty than the costs to provide more expensive intervention services for crises that could have been prevented.

According to the United Way of Illinois survey, 90 percent of agencies that tried to raise alternative funding on their own were unable to raise even 25 percent of the funding owed to them by the State of Illinois. As the largest non-governmental funder of health and human care programs in central Illinois, it is critical that the United Way continue to raise the maximum amount of dollars to support local, vital health and human care programs.

While central Illinois moves forward through challenging economic times, our generous contributors and community partners are relying on the Heart of Illinois United Way to identify and support positive outcomes that provide donors with tangible results relative to their charitable investment. iBi