WBEZ: Trump budget could hit Illinois’ homeless, domestic-violence agencies with ‘double-whammy’

By Dan Weissmann

Local agencies that combat homelessness and domestic violence face a “double-whammy” of government funding cuts.

For almost two years, the agencies have seen their state funding reduced and interrupted because of the ongoing budget mess in Springfield.

Now, the Trump administration may be targeting some of their federal support. The Washington Post reported that a draft of Trump’s budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development would eliminate a program called the Community Development Block Grant.

The program sends about $43 million to Chicago non-profits, including agencies whose services have been especially hard-hit by the state’s failure to enact a budget since June 2015.

Here is how cuts to the Community Development Block Grant could play out in Illinois.

Homeless services

This year, that federal program sends $9 million to Chicago agencies that serve the homeless.

“These providers are already so devastated because of the state,” said Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “Everyone’s trying to dig themselves out of these terrible holes. If they got a $9 million cut, it would be awful.”

Most homeless-service programs got no state funding at all for the first 12 months of the state budget impasse. A stopgap budget for the second half of 2016 freed up some funds, but that ended on Jan. 1.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence groups like Apha Ghar have been in the same boat as homeless-service agencies. Neha Gill, who runs the domestic-violence agency, said she has gotten no state funds since November. Now, some federal funds may be in danger.

“I worry about what that means, if we have this double-whammy,” she said.

Even before the state’s budget mess, she was already trying to make the group less dependent on government money. Gill said she had enough success in chasing big donations from wealthy private donors that government now provides only about half of the agency’s funding.

“But, half the funding for an agency like ours is still a lot of funding,” she said. “When you’re thinking about the next 25 years for the organization, individuals can’t really sustain it in the way that government has.”