United Way says many cash-strapped private agencies cutting back on services

Chronicle Media
Krisi Long, president of United Way of Illinois

Krisi Long, chairman of United Way of Illinois

United Way of Illinois says the continuing state budget impasse is causing hardships for human service agencies and clients — particularly childhood education and job training — according to results of a survey released last week.

Lack of state funding has forced some groups to cut back on clients and nearly four in 10 have tapped into cash reserves.

United Way of Illinois, the statewide association of 52 local United Ways, is the largest non-governmental funder of health and human services in the state.

“Human service organizations are the backbone of the delivery of state programs to needy citizens,” said Kristi Long, chairman of United Way of Illinois. “Our leaders in Springfield and the citizens of Illinois need to understand that the ongoing budget impasse is causing genuine disruption and hardship for people in Illinois who need services and for the agencies that deliver them.”

Local agencies were surveyed in July on how they are delivering services in light of the state budget impasse.

Key findings include:

  • 34 percent of Illinois human service agencies have already cut the number of clients they serve.
  • Program categories hit particularly hard include childhood education and job training.
  • 39 percent of agencies responding have tapped into cash reserves to continue operations.
  • Of those agencies using cash reserves 70 percent have three months of cash on hand or less.
  • 24 percent of agencies have tapped into lines of credit to shore up operations.
  • 19 percent of agencies expected to deplete their cash reserve by the end of August.

The overall survey data indicates that government inaction is causing significant challenges for nonprofit agencies that are impacting at-risk populations and working families.

More than 400 human service agencies across every county in Illinois responded to a survey conducted July 13-17.

Survey respondents represented a range of service categories including youth development, early childhood education, mental health, emergency housing, senior services and employment training, and varied in budget size from less than $500,000 to more than $15 million.

Among the other measures human service agencies reported taking to maintain operations during the stalemate are increasing their waiting lists for services, referring clients to other agencies where possible, not filling vacant positions and laying off staff.

Several agencies reported the need for more drastic action in the near term, including the Prairie Council on Aging.  Based in Jacksonville and serving 3,000 people across five counties, the agency reported that it would exhaust its reserves by September and face dire choices without some resolution to the state budget situation.

–United Way says many cash-strapped private agencies cutting back on services–