Housing Action Illinois worked with CCH in preparing this state budget analysis.
By Jennifer Cushman & Jonathan Holmes
of the CCH Public Policy staff
Gov. Bruce Rauner’ state budget plan for FY16, released Feb. 18, proposes some life-threatening reductions in FY16 funding for safety-net homeless services and devastating decreases to health care and core services on which Illinois families depend.
Gov. Rauner proposed cuts to critical homeless services that would impact an estimated 12,582 households, eroding an already insufficient safety net for families and children. Even at this year’s funding levels, emergency shelters will turn away more than 45,000 households due to lack of capacity.
With these cuts some of our state’s most vulnerable members, including more than 1,300 homeless youths, would lose life-saving shelter and services.
“This is a short-term solution to a long-term problem,” says Flora Koppel, executive director of the South Side’s Unity Parenting and Counseling. Ms. Koppel also chairs the CCH Youth Committee, an advocacy group comprised of homeless 44 youth providers across Illinois.
Though specific spending cutbacks were not detailed in his budget address, Gov. Rauner’s plan includes:
– Homeless Youth shelters and services: $2.5 million to be funded – a $3.1 million (55%) cutback that would end services for 1,326 homeless youth
– Supportive Housing Services: $16.17 million funded – a $14.1 million (53%) cutback that would end services to 10,311 recently homeless households
– Homeless Prevention grants to families: $3 million funded – a $1 million (25%) cutback in small, one-time grants for 955 at-risk households
– Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing: $9.4 million funded – unchanged from FY 2015
The governor also proposed slashing $1.5 billion from the state’s Medicaid program, with “aggressive” efforts to recertify which low-income people qualify for Medicaid-covered health care.
Gov. Rauner’s budget also fails to restore $3 million for homeless school services. That conflicts with his often-stated intention to prioritize education funding.
The Illinois State Board of Education has recommended the $3 million for four years. The number of homeless students in Illinois public schools has increased 121% since 2009, when homeless school services were last funded by the state. Homeless school enrollment reached a record 59,112 last school year.
Cutting off help to state wards at age 18
The governor also proposes to end guardianship services to youth who are state wards when they reach the age of 18, instead of 21. Illinois spends an average of $48,328 to support these wards, with 2,067 state wards ages 18-21 as of June 2014, per an analysis by CCH and the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY).
“Cutting off older wards at age 18 will certainly lead to increased homelessness for youth unprepared for independent living. Add to that a slash in funds for homeless youth shelters and you get a one-two punch for some of our state’s most vulnerable teens,” said Policy Director Julie Dworkin.
Fifty-six percent, or 1,155, of these older wards lived within Chicago and suburban Cook County.
Cutting off state wards at age 18 is a cutback of $99.9 million. According to the governor’s budget plan, this would be combined with “administrative efficiencies,” for a total cutback of $167.1 million.
Included among older state wards are 414 pregnant or parenting youth age 18 or older and their 376 young children, a group represented by CCH Senior Counsel Laurene Heybach.
Dropping state wards when they reach 18 would leave teens without support while some try to finish high school. As it is, the state’s child welfare system already leaves some youth to cope on their own: Chicago Public Schools identified 2,647 teenage students last school year who were unaccompanied, attending city schools while living without a parent or guardian.
Gov. Rauner’s proposed reductions to Medicaid and basic human services would critically erode core services for families and children, creating new barriers to youth and families trying to escape poverty and homelessness. If implemented, these deep cutbacks are expected to trigger increased costs for emergency medical care, lost wages, homelessness and incarceration.
Advocate with us on March 4
On March 4, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless traveled with 150 homeless leaders, services providers and students to Springfield to carry a message that these cuts are unacceptable. We will call for adequate state revenue to fund homeless services, housing, education and other programs on which Illinois families depend.
We will ask you to join our advocacy by contacting your state legislators and tweeting our message: No cuts, adequate revenue and fairness. Join us!