Passing a balanced budget with bipartisan support has been at the top of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's advocacy agenda in Springfield for the past two years.
Without a budget, JUF-affiliated agencies waited months to be paid. Reimbursement rates stagnated at levels set many years ago because without sufficient revenues, no state agency could increase rates. Consequently, agencies throughout the state exited other human service programs. In the Jewish community, two historic programs that had proven to make an impact closed: Group homes for abused, neglected children and adolescents at Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS) and the Community Care Program at CJE SeniorLife.
On July 6, the General Assembly, with bipartisan support, overrode Gov. Rauner's veto in order to pass a budget that appropriates funding to cover all areas except K-12 education.
What does this mean for JUF affiliates?
"Simply ending the budget impasse does not erase the damage of two years without a budget nor the continuing struggle to provide services with inadequate reimbursement rates," CJE SeniorLife CEO Mark Weiner said.
In April, due to the budget impasse and to flat reimbursement rates failing to keep pace with the costs of providing service, CJE SeniorLife made the decision to close the Managed Community Care program. For more than 20 years, the program helped many poor and frail older adults live safely in their homes.
For Sinai Health System, one of the main concerns has been Medicaid funding, which will not be cut with the new budget.
"We are relieved that the state budget does not include cuts to Medicaid or an increase in the hospital assessment," said Sinai Health System CEO Karen Teitelbaum, "but know that there are serious risks ahead for the Medicaid program, particularly because of the debate over health care in Washington."
JCFS is also both relieved and concerned going forward.
"The budget passage coming with additional revenues provides sorely needed relief as we work to plan for the sustainability of crucial human services," said JCFS CEO Howard Sitron. "However, its passage neglects the issue of the chronic under-funding of services for adults with developmental disabilities, where Illinois ranks 47th among the states. The failure to provide a living wage is driving caring, qualified workers out of the industry and creating staffing shortage nightmares for agencies."