Northwest Herald

Social service agencies plead for state gov’t help

Monday, August 09, 2010

McHENRY – Area human services providers told state legislators Thursday that they need to know how much money to expect from the state so the agencies can better plan on how to provide their services.

The Human Services Advocates of McHenry County is a collection of human services agency board members who meet to discuss issues and how to educate the public and elected officials of the agencies’ needs.

They met with state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, and state Reps. Mark Beaubien, R-Wauconda, and Jack Franks, D-Marengo, to discuss the problems that they’re seeing with state funding.

The agency directors and board members again said the state continued to lag behind on payments promised to them, which has led to furloughs, employee cutbacks and longer waiting lists for clients.

Tom Aquilina is the board president of Senior Services Associates.

“We’re doing an injustice to the people we serve, and I am very sensitive to that,” he said.

Lorraine Kopczynski, the president and CEO of the Pioneer Center of McHenry County, said the Pioneer Center has been using its reserves because the organization is owed $2.9 million.

In three months, Pioneer will be out of reserves and have to go to its bank for a line of credit, which it has not had to do for 52 years, Kopczynski said.

"We have no intention of closing, even if we go to our line of credit," she said. "It's just hard to run a business without getting paid."

However, not knowing when and how much money will come from the state is another hurdle.

“As businessmen, if we know the cuts, we can adjust,” said Dick Draper, a member of the Pioneer Center Board.

Directors from the agencies said they were frustrated with multiple site visits from different state agencies for licensing and accreditation that each review the same materials.

Franks agreed.

“Go with the most stringent one,” he said. “Everything else is extraneous.”

Franks reiterated the need to cut other state expenses by going after Medicaid fraud, eliminating the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, eliminating General Assembly earmark projects, and eliminating inefficiencies within state government.

Franks reminded everyone that there will be less money coming into the state this year than last year.

“This budget that we passed is a fallacy. Revenues don’t come anywhere near expenditures,” Franks said, adding that the state can push back payments to social services until January.

Althoff said she was working on putting together a bipartisan caucus to prioritize funding for human services.

“We all understand there is a huge cash flow problem and there is a lack of monies in the state of Illinois,” Althoff said.

“You guys do the angels’ work,” Franks said. “Probably the most important thing we have. For every dollar we spend, we’re getting 10 times the amount [back]. We should be spending more with you. The reality is, we’re not going to. I don’t know where you guys can get leaner. I hate to ask you that, but once we’ve accomplished that, ... we should be putting pressure on government to show the money spent here has a greater multiplier effect.”

Among the planned $1.4 billion in cuts by Gov. Pat Quinn:

$576 million from human service agencies

$216 million from health care and family services

$34.5 million from child and family services

$18.2 million from public health