For the first time in a long time, Bloomington-Normal’s social service agencies have a reason to applaud state lawmakers.
Thursday’s end to the budget stalemate was welcomed by local nonprofits who’ve seen already slow state funding choked off in the past two years. Their struggles were chronicled in GLT’s Stretched Thin and Stretched Thinner series, showing programs being cut or curtailed and real lives impacted.
The YWCA of McLean County was one of those hard-hit agencies. It recently announced plans to shut down its Medivan service, with more program changes on the way. Christy Germanis, spokeswoman for the YWCA, applauded lawmakers for finally getting the job done but called it only a first step.
“The damage has been done,” Germanis said. “We’ve scaled back services. We’ve laid off staff. And hopefully we’ll be able to start getting payments again in a timely manner and begin to rebuild.”
The state owes the YWCA of McLean County close to $750,000, and Germanis said they’re unsure how much of that will ever materialize. Several key YWCA programs rely heavily on state funding, including home care services (84 percent state-funded), its Stepping Stones rape-crisis center (48.5 percent state-funded), and its early-learning programs (55 percent state-funded).
The budget stalemate has eroded the network of social service agencies that many Bloomington-Normal residents rely on, said Karen Zangerle, executive director of PATH.
“We were overjoyed (Thursday) when the override was successful,” she said. “I know the budget is very flawed and it’s going to take a long time to work out the issues, but the fact that there is a budget allows some state agencies to go ahead and pay people for what they’ve (already) done.”
The Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), a coalition of more than 300 organizations across the state that fought for fair and adequate revenue to support state priorities, issued a statement Thursday applauding the members of the Illinois General Assembly for ending the “budget nightmare.”
“By having the courage to pass a budget with $5 billion of permanent new revenue, they have saved the state from even more devastating cuts to vital services and will allow schools, social service agencies, and healthcare providers to begin to heal and plan for the future,” RBC said in the statement. “Millions of Illinoisans will be able to live a better life in the coming year because of this vote.”
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