Dire Illinois budget spurs plan to map state aid spending

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Panicked by parsimonious social-services allocations in Illinois' 2010 budget, Chicago non-profits and government leaders are crafting a plan to track where public and private funding lands for families and children in need.

"It was a doomsday budget," United Way policy wonk Jack Kaplan says. "We wanted to see where funding is going based on geography."

The idea of creating a database led them straight to Deb DeHaas.

Now board chair of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, which is spearheading the effort, Ms. DeHaas is also vice-chairman and regional managing partner at Deloitte LLP. The firm is donating its accounting expertise to the project.

The database is still at least a year away from generating spreadsheets, but once in place, it will allow agencies to see which communities are being served and which aren't.

"We'll be able to see where the gaps are," Ms. DeHaas says.

The Chicago Community Trust and city and state officials are also working on the project.

Remembering the rushed brainstorming meetings last year and fearing the worst for some struggling communities, the leaders say more precise knowledge will better guide difficult allocations in the future. A few social-services organizations and government leaders sensitive to the issue attended—including Jerry Stermer, Gov. Pat Quinn's former chief of staff.

The database also will illuminate discrepancies in how money is dispersed—which has a few people squirming.

"There's some concern about what the political interpretation might be," one insider says. "No one wants to be perceived as the bad guy in how funding changes for different communities."