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Gov. Quinn signs state budget, but poor, disabled and elderly at risk

Federation agencies among those hamstrung by delay in new state budget.

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Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a new state budget on July 15 after a long deadlock; still, painful service cuts are underway at Jewish Federation agencies throughout Chicago that will drastically reduce or eliminate home-delivered meals for frail seniors, respite care for parents of children with disabilities, mental health services for the poor and disabled, and English as a Second language programs for immigrants and refugees.

Not-for-profit agencies that deliver services under contract with state government, including Federation affiliate agencies, are laying off employees and curtailing services throughout Illinois. Without clear guidance from the state regarding reimbursement for services, now or in the future, the essential human services provided by these agencies are hanging in the balance.

“Within the Federation system, thousands of individuals and families—Jews and non-Jews alike—are losing some of the vital services that sustained them,” said David T. Brown, chairman of the Jewish Federation’s Government Affairs Committee.  “Many thousands more are at risk.”

Faced with these stark realities, some painful cuts are already underway:

  • Jewish Child & Family Services (JCFS) is significantly reducing the size of its Community Respite program for children and families with special needs. This program provides the single most important service for families coping with a disability: specialized therapeutic care of their children while they focus attention on other pressing issues. More than two dozen families and 15 staff are impacted by this cut.
  • At CJE SeniorLife, shifts in how the Illinois Department on Aging funds specific services very likely will result in cuts to home-delivered meals, care management and transportation services that allow hundreds of seniors to live productively in their own homes. While the Department assures that there will be funding to ease a transition, services available at the end of that transition will be insufficient to prevent many individuals from requiring nursing home care—ironically, a far more expensive option.
  • Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) has had to reduce the scope of services it provides to adults with disabilities, impacting nearly 100 clients, since the Illinois Department of Human Services is taking millions of dollars out of those programs. 
  • JVS also is closing its long-running English as a Second Language program in Rogers Park where thousands of immigrants and refugees have learned to communicate effectively in their new country. Cuts from the state compelled JVS to lay off several staff and cancel contracts with many more teachers.
  • Mount Sinai Hospital is cutting outpatient mental health services starting August 1. Its contract with the state was reduced by $2.1 million, making it impossible to continue to help the many hundreds of uninsured clients who rely on Mount Sinai for counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatric services.

“The Federation’s longstanding partnership with the State has benefited all because of a simple equation: we delivered services at the request of the state for the benefit of its residents and –most of the time—the state fulfilled its side of the contract,” Brown said.  “Together with our agencies we are now working to triage the most vulnerable in these programs, hoping to sustain some level of service across the many different programs.  For many of the clients, there are no other places to go; all social service agencies are experiencing the same problems.  Yet, we remain committed to our mission and are working to deliver on that commitment as best we can.

“Illinois state government is holding our Federation system of social services in precarious limbo, and making it impossible to proceed with serious planning and responsible budgeting,” Brown said.  “People in real need in Illinois are being hurt by the failure of our elected officials to perform their most basic constitutional responsibility: to produce a balanced budget that sufficiently fund human services in accordance with the state’s own laws and legislative intentions.

“It is time for us to put politics and posturing aside and to address this state government-created human services crisis, which is being exacerbated by the economic recession,” Brown said.

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