Crain’s Chicago Business, Letter to the Editor: The pain of budget cuts

To the Editor:

Columnist Greg Hinz claims no one is feeling the pain of the state budget impasse (“Why Springfield’s budget crisis is more talk than real,” July 8), but the uncertainty of the budget outcome already is forcing organizations to make tough decisions.

My organization serves homeless youth on Chicago’s South Side, providing a basic safety net of shelter, meals and connections to health care, employment and education. I am faced with the decision of whether to sign a new lease to keep our shelter open without knowing if funding will be there. While my organization received a contract from the state, it is unclear when payments will be received or whether the terms of the contract may change.

This budget uncertainty asks organizations to provide services and pay staff without being able to rely on when or if the human services provider will be paid for those services. Gov. Bruce Rauner has stated that he is applying needed business principles to state governance, yet his agencies are asking service providers to accept risky business decisions.

We recently held a meeting with our youth clients where we talked to them about the state budget crisis. I was impressed by how aware they are of the budget situation and the uncertainty of funding for services they depend on for survival. The young people whom we serve are accustomed to uncertainty, having experienced family dysfunction, fear of violence and not knowing where they will sleep at night. My organization’s purpose is to counter this uncertainty by providing a stable environment from which youth can reach goals that allow them to enter a self-sufficient adulthood.

It is hard for these young and vulnerable people to understand why even the little that they have to depend upon is threatened by this budget crisis. At the meeting they asked me, “Why us?” That’s another tough question to answer.

Flora Koppel, Executive Director, Unity Parenting and Counseling & Chair of the CCH Youth Committee