Illinois Department of Human Services faces funding cuts

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Advertising failed to save child care and home care programs in Illinois.

The Illinois House finalized a bill to cut state funding for the Department of Human Services by $500 million to $600 million Monday, six days after Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, a group that represents health care workers in Illinois, launched its advertising campaign to advocate full funding for its Child Care Assistance Program and Home Service Program, which operate under the DHS.

“It’s not that I don’t agree with the ads,” said Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Westmont),, a member of the House Appropriations Human Services Committee. “The bottom line is, we cannot continue to provide services and not pay the provider.”

The House committee agreed to an across-the-board cut in order to reduce the impact on individual programs, Bellock said. It also reinstated a few programs previously cut in Gov. Quinn’s budget, such as youth prevention programs and substance abuse programs.

“Rather than a few agencies take huge cuts, we try to make it that all agencies will take smaller cuts,” Bellock said.

Brynn Seibert, communications director at SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, said the cut would be “devastating” to working families and people with disabilities.

“There are tens of thousands of Illinois families that count on these programs for the day, ” Seibert said.

Tom Green, the DHS communications director, agreed the cut will adversely affect services on mental health, developmental disabilities and community health and prevention.

However, he acknowledged the inevitability of the outcome.

“It’s a fact that the state doesn’t have enough money to fund everything,” Green said.

The budget cut caused a controversy in the House after some DHS employees received pay raises totaling $47 million.

Green said the DHS was “forced to provide for those raises” to honor a deal between the union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Non-union staff did not receive a raise.

Bellock considered the deal a “disturbing” interference of the executive with the legislative.

“I just don’t agree with pay raises in a year when everybody else is having such major cuts,” she said, “especially on child care and home health care because those are really important programs that keep people out of nursing homes and out of institutions.”

While the new budget saved youth prevention programs and substance abuse programs, the reduction of funds to these programs still worries parents.

Cherie Hansen, co-president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at Evanston Township High School, said programs for children should not be affected, despite the need to trim the budget.

“It just doesn’t feel right to cut programs that really, really can help children grow up to be who they want to be,” Hansen said.

The bill will be online for viewing at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Bellock said.

Note: This article has been edited for clarity. A sentence stating the bill would slash state funding to DHS by 10 percent was removed. Bellock did not cite that figure and it is incorrect.