Illinois News

Human services agencies get brief reprieve with partial budget

Suzie Vaupel feeds a client Friday at Transitions of Western Illinois in Quincy. Transitions and other human service providers across Illinois got a reprieve with passage of a stopgap state spending plan this week. But the partial budget will provide only temporary relief. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 1, 2016 10:15 pm Updated: Jul. 1, 2016 11:35 pm

QUINCY -- Quanada Director Megan Duesterhaus was relieved at the news of a stopgap budget, but her optimism, for the most part, remains on hold.

Nonprofit agencies and human services programs in Illinois will receive partial funding, thanks to a stopgap spending plan passed by the Illinois Legislature this week.

"This is not a permanent solution," Duesterhaus said. "This is only a temporary reprieve, and we could be back right where we were come November. There are so many moving parts to this."

Duesterhaus said Quanada, which helps women in crisis, was facing the possibility of eliminating some of its services.

"Our budget is $1.2 million, and more than $600,000 comes from state funds," she said.

Over the past year, Duesterhaus said, she had been forced to reduce Quanada's staff by more than a third, eliminating 7.25 of 21 positions. Quanada services such as its women's shelter and food pantry were and still are in danger of closing, she said.

During the budget impasse, Duesterhaus said, Quanada continued to receive some funding for its domestic violence operation but received no money for its sexual assault division, adding to the uncertainty.

"This is all so unprecedented, and it has not been our fault," Duesterhaus said. "We have done a good job of being fiscally responsible."

Mike Rein is in his 24th -- and likely most challenging -- year as the executive director of Transitions of Western Illinois, a social service agency that deals with mental health and developmental needs. Transitions relies heavily on state funding, and Rein was relieved when he heard of the stopgap budget passing.

"Right now, we back away from the edge of the cliff," he said.

But Rein is uncertain exactly what overdue funding will be heading Transitions' way in the forms of Medicaid and grants.

"I need to go through (the paperwork) and have not yet had a chance to do that," Rein said. "I'm looking forward to learning the details."

Transitions provides an array of mental health, counseling, early childhood, developmental disability, and residential and vocational services. How any or all of those will be affected by the stopgap budget still needs to be sorted out.

"In the past, you could always trust the state" would eventually come through with funding, Rein said.

That, he believes, is no longer true.

"They're going to have to work hard to rebuild that trust," Rein said.

Rein wanted to make sure people who depend on Transitions can rest easy -- or at least easier.

"We'll be at work next week and the week after that," Rein said. "We'll figure it out somehow."

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