Friday, July 17, 2009

Naperville Sun - "DuPage Residents Rally To Save State Funding" (6.20.09)

By JASON DUARTE For The Sun-Times News Group

"No more cuts! No more cuts!" was chanted by hundreds who rallied at 2 p.m. Friday in the hot and threatening weather in the courtyard outside the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton on County Farm Road. The crowd was protesting budget cuts proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly.

The state notified human service agencies across the state that come July 1, funding for multiple human services agencies will be completely eliminated.
Paul Conrad of Roselle protests the proposed state budget cuts in social services programs at the DuPage County complex in Wheaton on Friday.

Executive director of Catholic Charities and Naperville resident Kathleen McGowan said the cut will be detrimental to its head-start and early head-start programs especially.

"There's potential of no longer being able to do counseling with children who were victims of abuse and neglect," McGowan said. "We've been informed of a 27 percent cut in the funding between our Daybreak Center in Joliet and our Hope House in Villa Park. If that continues, that's 27 percent more people outside sleeping in the parks of Naperville and under viaducts. Where are cuts the state is making? I've cut staff prior to this."

"I don't want to be laid off after 25 years of service," said Downers Grove resident, employee and former board member of the Ray Graham Association for People With Disabilities. "The moral of the story is, 'No more cuts!" she said.

Jack Ryan, president and CEO of Naperville-based Little Friends Inc., said his business is being hit in two ways: grant funding and fees for service funding.

For example, the state of Illinois reimburses Ryan every day a client is served at their residential program, Ryan said.

By July 1, Little Friends may lose $1.1 million in funding, which will in turn eliminate funding for 150 clients or residents in their programs. And that doesn't include a possible additional $1.2 million to $1.7 million by October.

"What are we going to do about it? We're planning to reduce employees' salaries, terminate retirement plans, increase employee health care costs and eliminate 11 positions. If the actual reduction of another $1.2 to $1.7 million takes place (on Oct. 1), it'll be a massive destruction," Ryan said.

The Family Shelter Service of DuPage County even closed its office today in the 505 Building on County Farm Road in Wheaton to let people know what is going on.

Cathy Ficker Terrill, CEO of the Ray Graham Association, which focuses on people with disabilities, said 900 people will lose 100 percent of their funding if these cuts go through. On Oct. 1, if the additional cuts go through, "1,100 additional people will lose services," Ficker Terrill said. "It's not about jobs, it's about lives. These individuals can't function without staff supporting them and feeding them and bathing them. Some may become homeless and they're vulnerable. It will not be safe," she said.

It costs the Ray Graham Association between $20,000 and $50,000 per individual per year, whereas a person in a state institution costs around $150,000 per year, Ficker Terrill said.

In the meantime, Ficker Terrill said she is looking at every nonessential thing.

"Travel's been cut, we slashed our food budget, we slashed training, we froze all positions," Ficker Terrill said.

When it came time for both Democrats and Republicans to vote on an appropriation bill, "none of us did," said Illinois State Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville. "We're talking about briefing salaries. A list of items is being proposed by cutting salaries of state employees by 10 percent, reforming their pension and trying to reform Medicaid. None of that got done; it was all dumped on human services and that's wrong."

Senger said she is not in favor of the 50 percent cut in human services programs, but said she isn't in favor of raising taxes, either.

"I was trying to get a bill proposed saying you need a super majority (2/3) of the vote to raise taxes (instead of 51 percent)," Senger said.

"I've been through Halfway House at Serenity and Cornell Intervention at Woodridge," said recovering alcoholic and addict Jeff Rhoades of Addison. "If it wasn't for those places, I'd be dead."

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