Illinois State Budget Impasse’s Impact Varies by Organization and Gender

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January 25, 2016; Herald-News (Joliet, IL)

As reported in the Herald-News, Catholic Charities in Joliet, Illinois, is still delivering services in the midst of the state’s budget impasse. This is in spite of the fact that the state owes the organization more than $300,000 for services rendered since the stalemate began in July. However, no new programs are being implemented at Catholic Charities, and its leadership will have to consider cuts to its existing programs if the state is unable to start paying soon. In October, NPQ reported that other organizations within the state were dipping into reserves or taking out lines of credit so that they could continue delivering services. Other organizations have reduced or cut services completely, placing even more strain on those that are able to keep doors open—for now.

NPQ has been covering the budget impasse for months. Main sticking points between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic majority in the state legislature are proposed changes in worker’s compensation and collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees. Critical state entities, such as the state police and the prison system, have received funding during this time. Other service providers, such as Medicaid, have obtained court orders to keep payments coming in. However, many nonprofit organizations that have delivered services with the help of state funding in the past are not as lucky.

This lack of funding affects Illinois citizens of every age. According to the St. Louis Fox affiliate, the East Side Health District facility will have to close its family case management unit by the end of the week, affecting new mothers and their infants. That report, coupled with the Rockford Register Star report on a recent statement from the League of Women Voters, highlights ways that this impasse is more harmful to women than to men. Of particular note is that the majority of employees in nonprofit organizations are women—and nonprofit organizations are poised to layoff staff as a strategy to continue delivering services. Adding to that concern is the lack of state funds available to programs that provide child-care assistance, which largely helps households of which women are the head. Organizations that provide meals to seniors that are food insecure, of which 60 percent are women, are offering scaled down services or none at all. Meals on Wheels, a provider to those seniors, and others with disabilities, has had to close some locations that stopped receiving funding in July.

Yet, even when a budget is passed, there will likely be long-lasting repercussions. In 2009, Pennsylvanians lived through a 101-day budget impasse. Many nonprofit organizations in Pennsylvania made use of lines of credit, often with a high interest rate, in order to continue delivering services during the 2009 stalemate. According to the Times-Tribune, once the budget was passed and the organizations started receiving state funds again, they were not reimbursed for the interest costs incurred to keep programs running. With Illinois nearing double that amount of time without a budget, the interest payments on lines of credit could be yet another barrier to people in need receiving services. Those organizations who have been able to dip into reserves or otherwise avoid a line of credit to continue delivering services will be able to get back to “business as usual” quickly. But the number of organizations that fit that criteria is quickly dwindling.—Kelley Malcolm