Proposed deep state budget cuts to vital programs for people in poverty will greatly exacerbate hardship

Illinois Must Rethink Budget Priorities                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Letters to the Editor: From the Heartland Alliance 

 

CHICAGO, IL – The From Poverty to Opportunity Campaign, coordinated by Heartland Alliance, reports that the proposed state budget for fiscal year 2013 released by Governor Quinn on February 22, 2012 poses many threats to people in poverty, at a time when need is growing.  Poverty, worse in Illinois today than during the recession, grew from pre-to post-recession by 16 percent. In fact, poverty in Illinois is at its highest point in decades.

The Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty has developed a plan to cut extreme poverty in half which includes detailed recommendations to ensure opportunity for the most vulnerable in Illinois. “Unfortunately the proposed state budget takes Illinois further away from this achievable goal,” said Al Ridley, Executive Director of Illinois Coalition for Community Services. “It now falls to the General Assembly to produce a state budget that does not increase poverty above the record levels in Illinois and does not drive people already in poverty into an even deeper hole.”

Over the last decade the state has cut its real investment in programs that help people experiencing poverty meet need basic needs and get out of poverty collectively by more than $4.4 billion. The Governor’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal continues the pattern of devastating cuts to programs that protect the most vulnerable and support them in keeping a roof over their head and food on their table.

  • The budget includes a proposed cut of $2.7 billion from the Medicaid program, a staggering amount. The proposed budget does not specify how this will be accomplished nor is there any way it can be accomplished without doing great harm to the low-income Illinoisans for whom Medicaid is their only option for health care.
  • It also includes a $56 million cut to the child care assistance program for low-income parents who work or go to school in addition to significant increases in parent co-payments and lowering income eligibility at intake from 185% to 150% of the federal poverty line, which would make paying for childcare infeasible for many and disqualify others from participation.    
  • The proposed budget slashes half of the funding for emergency and transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness, at a time when homelessness is expected to increase.
  • The proposed closing/consolidation of 24 Illinois Department of Human Services offices will considerably reduce access to public services for Illinoisans in need – including reduced access to the Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
  • The budget also includes a proposal to reduce lifetime eligibility for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families from five to three years.  This change would especially harm families with multiple barriers to employment and is unrealistic given today’s job market and economy.

“Illinois is facing tough times and some difficult decisions must be made,” said Sid Mohn, President of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights. “At the same time, making ever deeper cuts to programs that meet the vital needs of people in poverty is not the right way to solve our fiscal problems and will cost the state more in the long run. The General Assembly must maximize all available revenue sources and re-balance the state’s priorities as needed so that everyone in our state can live with dignity and have the opportunity to escape from poverty.”   

The budget does add funding to two programs which do provide vital support for disadvantaged Illinoisans:

  • A doubling of the current appropriation for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to keep pace with the increasing caseload.
  • The $20 million in proposed additional funding in the Early Childhood Block Grant, which funds the Preschool for All program, restores part of the funding that was cut over the past two years.  There is abundant evidence that high quality early education dramatically changes the trajectory of children’s lives and produces greater societal savings than any other public investment.  

Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights believes that all of us deserve the opportunity to improve our lives. [object Object]Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for more than one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. Our policy efforts strengthen communities; our comprehensive services empower those we serve to rebuild and transform their lives.  

 

For more information: 312.870.4949 | research@heartlandalliance.org | www.heartlandalliance.org/research