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Budget Crisis Shuts Down Rauner Family YMCA’s Afterschool Program

Illinois’ budget crisis is causing Teen REACH afterschool programs around the state to shut down. One of the latest casualties has been the afterschool program at the Rauner Family YMCA in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.

The video from ABC-7 Chicago below highlights the families who are being harmed by the shutdown of the Rauner Family YMCA’s afterschool program.

While the Rauner Administration blamed the shutdown on the General Assembly’s failure to pass budget bills that were supported by adequate revenue, Teen REACH would do no better under Governor’s Rauner’s proposed budget, which called for the elimination of Teen REACH.

[News story will appear after ABC-7’s embedded advertisement.]

Governor Rauner Chooses Reckless Cuts

This week, Governor Rauner released a reckless, cuts-only budget that would do enormous harm to Illinois’ children, families, and communities. The Governor’s failure to propose any new revenues to address the current budget crisis — caused largely by the recent 25-percent cut to income tax rates — takes Illinois in the wrong direction. This failure is even more notable given that just last fall he supported more than $700 million in new revenues.

To make up for the loss of nearly $6 billion due to  the income tax cuts, Rauner proposed slashing large swaths of the state budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1.

Cuts to Services for Children, Families, and Communities

The governor proposed deep cuts across a wide range of areas affecting kids, families, and communities. The following are selected areas that were cut in his proposal.

Child Care and Early Intervention Services

In a departure from longstanding practice, Governor Rauner did not include specifics about where he would spend money at the Department of Human Services (DHS), which serves some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Rather, he requested lump sum amounts for DHS divisions — Development Disabilities, Family and Community Services, Mental Health, Rehabilitation Services, and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Despite the inadequate detail, Governor Rauner indicated the following broad cuts in his budget narrative and agency presentations:

  • Denying Families Child Care Assistance: The proposal would make it so that children over 5 years old could no longer begin receiving child care assistance. Over time, this change would result in potentially over 60,000 children losing access, making it much more difficult for working parents to stay employed.
  • Increasing Child Care Copayments: The proposal would increase family copayments for the third time in five years. This would make child care less affordable for families and make it harder for them to meet other critical needs.
  • Restricting Eligibility for Early Intervention Services: The proposal includes deep funding cuts to Early Intervention, which provides a broad array of services and support for families with children under age 3 who have disabilities or developmental delays.

Due to the lack of details, other cuts within DHS may well be hidden from public view. The Rauner Administration refused to distribute agency presentations on cuts when they released the budget. Instead, officials indicated they would delay the release of materials until next week.

Education

The Governor’s proposal includes a modest increase to General State Aid (6%), which funds K-12 education, and the Early Childhood Block Grant (8%), which funds preschool programs as well as services for infants and toddlers. However, without adequate revenue, these increases are funded by cutting other programs. Thirteen State Board of Education service areas are simply eliminated, including funding for:

  • Advanced Placement programs that help kids get a head start on college and can save families money.
  • Agricultural education that is crucial to Illinois’ rural communities and agricultural economy.
  • Arts and foreign language education that is also important for admission to many colleges.
  • After School Matters, a Chicago-area afterschool program renowned for its success helping children learn more in a safe environment.

Afterschool

Funding for other services that help children learn and stay safe and healthy after school and at other times when school isn’t in session is decimated under the Governor’s proposal. In addition to cuts to After School Matters, funding for Teen REACH, which supports afterschool programs for disadvantaged youth across the state, would be eliminated. All 14,000 youth in Teen Reach would lose access to programs that promote graduation and college and career readiness, keep youth safe, and connect youth with mentors. These cuts will also make it more difficult for parents to work while ensuring that their children are safe, thereby weakening families’ economic security.

Child Protection and Child Welfare

The Department of Children and Family Services, which is already struggling to fulfill its mission and is facing new lawsuits, would see a 20-percent cut in general funds ($139 million). The agency’s general funds budget would be 36 percent below the FY 2009 level. These cuts would pose serious risks for the most vulnerable children and youth in Illinois.  

Beginning in July, 2,400 young adults aged 18 to 21 would no longer get any help making the difficult transition from foster care to independence. Already strapped for personnel to carry out its mission, DCFS staff would be slashed by over 400 positions (a 17% cut). The proposed budget does not specify how child protection services would be affected.  It is not yet clear how the state can carry out these cuts without once again violating federal law.

Public Health

Proposed cuts include:

  • 71% cut to breast and cervical cancer screenings.
  • 10% cuts to a range of areas including a reporting system to analyze and prevent violent child deaths, family planning, school health centers, infant care services, vision and hearing screening, and grants for immunizations and outreach activities at a time when the nation is facing an upsurge in measles and other childhood diseases.
  • 23% cut to HIV/AIDS education and related services.
  • Elimination of funding for multiple sclerosis, mobile health services, the Violence Prevention Task Force, and the University of Illinois Chicago’s Sickle Cell Clinic.

Higher Education

State funding to public universities is cut by over 30 percent (nearly $400 million), despite Governor Rauner’s earlier recognition that Illinois needs “top universities.” When state funding has declined in the past, universities have increased tuition rates for Illinois residents.

$1.5 Billion in Cuts to Health Care

Illinois Medicaid Spending Is Lowest in the Midwest

Despite the fact that Illinois already has the lowest Medicaid costs per enrollee in the Midwest, Governor Rauner proposed slashing the program. General funds resources for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services would be at the lowest level in more than 10 years.

The Governor’s proposal includes:

  • Cutting access to dental and podiatry services for low-income parents and pregnant women. These services were cut previously, but were restored last year after recognition of the harm to Medicaid patients and increased costs due to hospital emergency room care.
  • Denying kidney transplants to children who need them because they lack immigration authorization from the federal government.
  • Restricting access to prescription drugs for individuals with severe mental illness.
  • Decreasing payments to facilities that care for children on ventilators and to supportive living facilities for children with severe mental illness.
  • Reducing payments to hospitals serving Medicaid populations by $735 billion.
  • Ending assistance to people with hemophilia.

Most of these cuts would cause the loss of significant federal matching dollars to both the state and Illinois hospitals. To learn more about how Medicaid and related programs work and why they are so important, read this recent report from the Fiscal Policy Center.

Cuts to Programs Designed to Save Money on Costly Nursing Home Care

The proposed budget would limit eligibility for the Department on Aging’s Community Care Program, which provides services for seniors who might otherwise need much more expensive nursing home care. The proposal also increases the threshold for need, making it more difficult for seniors to qualify. Additionally, the proposal would decrease Community Care Program services to seniors by one hour per week. According to the Administration, these combined changes to limit program access and reduce services will allow the state to serve seniors “more efficiently.”

Changes to the Home Services Program, which helps individuals with physical disabilities who might otherwise need much more expensive nursing home care, would similarly make it harder to receive needed care.

Cuts to Public Transportation

Governor Rauner proposed slashing funding for the Chicago area’s Regional Transportation Authority, as well as downstate public transit systems. The RTA would lose $127 million in funding, while other transit systems around the state would lose $75 million. This would severely crimp the budgets of public transit systems. Likely consequences would be increased fares and reduced services, both of which would make it more difficult for many state residents, particularly those with low incomes, to get to work.

Cuts to Pension Contributions for State-Funded Retirement Systems

Governor Rauner proposed further changes to pensions that he said would result in $2.2 billion in reduced contributions in FY 2016.  

With the constitutionality of the 2013 pension law in serious doubt, counting on unconfirmed, hypothetical savings from additional benefit reductions that have neither been enacted nor survived court challenges would be very irresponsible. Without the $2.2 billion cut in pension contributions, Governor Rauner would need to decimate additional essential services and investments — or, of course, raise new revenue. 

Cuts to Revenue-Sharing with Local Governments

The state shares responsibility for carrying out many essential services with local governments. Governor Rauner proposed reducing the amount of money shared with local governments by about $1.3 billion.

This proposal simply shifts the state’s budget problems onto local governments, which would then be handcuffed by Rauner’s proposed property tax freeze. Without the ability to replace lost revenue from the state, local governments would need to cut services and investments such as K-12 schools.

‘A Stronger Illinois’

A Stronger Illinois for Web-23The Fiscal Policy Center has launched “A Stronger Illinois” — an exciting new seven-part series that highlights the positive impact of public investments on the lives of families, communities, and local economies in Illinois.

In collaboration with our coalition partners, the series tells the stories of real people whose lives are improved by public investments. The series also estimates how these programs and the communities they serve would be impacted by a loss of billions of dollars in revenue. 

The first report in the series focuses on how afterschool programs like Teen REACH keep teens like Eddie safe, help them avoid risky behaviors, and get them on track for high school graduation, college, and career success.

It shows that Illinois is stronger when our children and youth are safe and have opportunities to bolster their success from kindergarten to college and into their careers. You can find the report here or read it below. We have also created a fact sheet that you can be used to educate others on the importance of providing the resources our state needs to fund afterschool programs such as Teen REACH.

 

Download (PDF, 1.11MB)

Adequate funding for afterschool matters

By Samantha Hedges, Youth Development Associate at Voices for Illinois Children

Voices for Illinois Children held its annual Illinois Kids Count Awards Benefit last Thursday with much praise for the organization’s important advocacy work–including youth development work around strong afterschool policy.

A moving highlight from the night was the choir performance by After School Matters youth. The youth displayed their love and passion for music and their dedication to executing a memorable performance.

Voices2014-056

After School Matters is a model for how afterschool programs can engage youth in hands-on learning opportunities that meet their interests, help develop social-emotional skills such as leadership, and provide access to career exploration opportunities.

Afterschool programs play a critical role in the lives of youth and their families. They inspire learning and prepare youth for college and careers, and help working families by providing a safe space for youth during the many hours they aren’t in the classroom.

More than a decade of research confirms that quality afterschool programs make a difference in the lives of youth, and new research demonstrates that consistent participation in afterschool programs during the elementary school years is linked to narrowing the gap in math achievement at grade 5, showing no gap between low-income and high-income children. Research also shows that consistent afterschool participation leads to:

  • Better work habits;
  • Gains in self-efficacy;
  • Stronger tasks persistence; 
  • Pro-social behavior with peers; and
  • Increased school-day attendance and reduced high school drop-out rates.

Investments in quality afterschool programs like After School Matters are needed now more than ever to help address the growing opportunity and achievement gaps and support the overall well-being of children as they move through school, career, and life.

After years of cuts and flat funding to afterschool budget lines, the Illinois Legislature passed a fiscal year 2015 budget essentially increasing afterschool funding by $500,000 over last fiscal year, going from $20.8 million to $21.3 million.

But that is not enough: only 16 percent of youth in Illinois participate in an afterschool program; nearly 900,000 would participate in a program if one were available to them. And irresponsible budget decisions made by the legislature—papering over a $2 billion revenue loss due to midyear expiration of current income tax rates—do not put us on a path towards building a stronger afterschool system that can serve these youth or towards greater investment in youth and families generally.

Lawmakers need to get this right—investing in the future of Illinois youth through programs like After School Matters depends on a sustainable budget. And Voices will continue to advocate for access to the high-quality programs that all youth in Illinois deserve.

Miller testifies before House Human Services Appropriations Committee

EMiller testifying House DHS

Last week, Emily Miller, Voices’ director of policy and advocacy, testified before the Illinois House Human Services Appropriations Committee. She urged Committee members to prioritize cost-effective interventions and strategies that improve children’s lives and contribute to efforts to address the state’s short- and long-term fiscal stability.

She also reiterated the urgent need for lawmakers to maintain current tax rates in order to prevent draconian cuts to families who have already suffered from more than $1 billion in cuts. To improve long-term fairness and sustainability, she also urged Committee members put a constitutional amendment to allow a fair tax, where those with lower incomes pay lower rates and those with higher incomes pay higher rates.

You can read Emily’s full testimony below:

 

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