Budget Stalemate keeps more Illinoisans out of work and in poverty

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Illinois has been without a state budget since July 1, 2015, and Illinoisans seeking better jobs, or any jobs at all, are suffering because of it.

Workforce organizations across the state connect job seekers to employment and training opportunities. The Illinois budget crisis is drastically breaking down the entire human service system, which is decreasing the ability of workforce programs, even those that are still fully funded, to help job seekers find employment.

When state services are properly funded, workforce agencies help people who are ready (or almost ready) to work. Education, child care, housing, food assistance, medical care, disability services—these services are not only important on their own; they also prepare someone who wants to find a job, but is also dealing with other challenges, to get ready for employment. For example, someone living with food or housing insecurity needs to have these basic necessities covered before they’re able to effectively participate in a job training program. Likewise, folks in need of addiction treatment services or basic medical attention might not be ready to look for a job. Anyone in need of these essential services will almost certainly not be ready for employment.

After over 300 days without a state budget, Illinoisans are struggling to become job-ready and overcome poverty. Over the past several months, Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) members have spoken out about how the state budget crisis impacts workforce services. Recently, we convened workforce providers to discuss their challenges together. Here is what we found:

  • Social service agencies are struggling on many fronts
    • Agencies are laying-off staff, leaving open positions unfilled, cutting pay, and furloughing employees. A recent agency survey conducted by CJC 1Frontline Focus Training Institute (FFTI) Annual Survey FY2016— Survey was comprised of 49 questions designed to capture information about FFTI, 197 individuals responded (10% response rate). found that 48% of respondents saw layoffs or cuts at their agency in the past year (up from 36% last year)—80% cited state funding as the major reason for layoffs (up from 55% last year).
    • Entire programs have been halted indefinitely.
    • Programs have less time and money available for community outreach to target and recruit participants who could benefit from the service.
    • Increased competition for remaining private funding pits complimentary services against one another.
  • Results of the budget crisis are stretching staff and programs, making them inefficient and reducing the number of people they serve
    • Staff reduction at one organization caused 60 plus domestic violence survivors to lose access to career readiness services. This reduces survivors’ likelihood of employment and their ability to support themselves independently.
    • One program staff wondered about how many of her colleagues were going to turn into her customers.
    • One program which re-enrolls drop-outs back into high schools was put on hold; meaning over 600 students are not being served.
    • Many staff are in crisis mode, helping meet basic needs they’re not trained to deal with because services that meet those needs have unraveled.
    • Directors and executive staff are providing frontline services, and unable to focus on running their organizations.
    • Potential participants can’t afford to attend programs because of reduced childcare, reduced access to transportation, and reduced healthcare, or other unmet needs.
  • The damage is long term
    • Organizations that have laid-off staff, abandoned clients, and closed buildings will take years to rebuild, if they ever can rebuild.
    • Talented professionals are leaving Illinois social services for other states or for-profit industries and are unlikely to return.
    • Anchor institutions with historically solid funding are coming to the verge of collapse, which spreads uncertainty across the entire social service system, including the people that they serve.

As the social service infrastructure crumbles, employment prospects disappear for the people most in need of work. Failure to fund social services means that we are kicking people who are down, and making it harder for them to get back up.

Two recent articles have also covered how the budget crisis is hurting job prospects and the economy in Illinois. Ralph Martire wrote in the State Journal Register last week that “the $400 million to $500 million in estimated social service spending cuts for FY2016 will cause the loss of some 5,000-plus jobs statewide.”

On Monday, Greg Hinz covered a new report from Illinois Partners for Human Service, which detailed the economic importance of Illinois’ human service field. Human services employ 169,000 workers statewide, generate $597 million annually in state and local taxes, and are responsible for about $4.5 billion in annual spending. Hinz noted: “What’s really fascinating, though, is that such spending, proportionally, tends to be concentrated not so much in Chicago and nearby suburbs, but in rural Downstate areas.”

Speak up for a fully funded budget! Here are a few things you can do:

 

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