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Social Services in Illinois Say Situation Still Bad With Temporary Budget

Social service groups say they're looking for lawmakers to agree on a permanent budget solution because some of these groups are still struggling to stay afloat. (WRSP)

Social service groups say they're looking for lawmakers to agree on a permanent budget solution because some of these groups are still struggling to stay afloat.

There's a misconception that the temporary budget wiped away the problems for all these social service groups -- serving children, the disabled, those down and out – according to John Kelker, the president of United Way.

United Way is a nonprofit that helps dozens of local social services for children and the needy. In June, United Way estimated a million people in the Land of Lincoln had lost a service because of the impasse.

The impact of the budget impasse and the months after have been staggering, according to Kelker.

“When you withhold mental health services from an individual, that person only gets sicker. When you don't have after-school programs for people to be in, there is a more than 50-50 likelihood they are not doing character building activities after school,” he said. “We're going to see longer term consequences from this lack of funding than people ever imagined.”

The challenge continues as long as a full budget is not passed.

“It's not restoring positions at agencies. It's not restoring services. And until there's a real budget where there are contracts written for services to be provided,” said Kelker. “We're not going to see a return to the services we used to have.”

Many organizations depend on state funding. One is the Illinois Coalition for Community Services, which provides after-school programming to several thousand kids in Central Illinois.

“We're operating with a staff of 20 plus dedicated individuals,” said Jason Gyure, Illinois Coalition for Community Services executive director. “That's now been reduced to six.”

Gyure said its after-school programs have been -- and still are -- reduced. He said it causes some people wonder if the services are really providing help.

“People then question the level of trust,” he said.

Gyure said he knows he's fortunate. Some organizations went under the past year and a half, but he said the challenges will continue if there's another budget stalemate.

He said his organization encourages the people using its services to reach out to lawmakers directly. And that's what United Way does as well to let these people's elected officials know what could be at stake if there's another budget impasse.

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