The state’s ongoing budget gridlock is taking a toll on the largest statewide provider of social services.
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois has announced that it is eliminating more than 30 programs and letting go more than 40 percent of its employees. The state’s withholding of $6 million owed to LSSI led to the 149-year-old agency cutting more than 750 positions and ending its services for more than 4,700 Illinois residents.
“The state’s budget deadlock has severely challenged LSSI’s ability to provide services to those in need,” said Mark A. Stutrud, the agency’s president and CEO. “Over the past months, LSSI has relied on a bank line of credit and available resources from our foundation to compensate for the state’s inability to pay its bills. … After seven months, we can no longer provide services for which we aren’t being paid.”
Programs such as senior home care, job retraining and adult day care will be eliminated by the agency. (See related story, for local programs impacted.)
Barb Hailey, spokesperson for LSSI, said the fear now is that clients of soon-to-be-shuttered Lutheran Social Services programs will turn elsewhere and tap the resources of those agencies.
“The big concern to us is that a lot of our clients will turn to other agencies providing similar services and stretch them,” Hailey said. “Also, many of the services we provided do not have a lot of other providers so the pool becomes even smaller.”
Hailey said even if state leaders came to a budget agreement in the coming weeks, LSSI would continue on with program closures. She said because agencies bear the burden of start-up and closing costs for a program, LSSI has already put the wheels in motion to end some of its programs.
She said employees have already been told their positions are being eliminated and they are looking for new jobs. Hailey added that too many question marks exist for the agency to change gears from its plan to reduce programs.
“Even a budget was passed, there is financial uncertainty. How much money will there be coming from the state for what we do provide?” Hailey asked. “We are looking at what the picture is today and in the future. We plan to continue our longstanding history. We are taking steps to shore up services we do provide to make sure we are here for a long time.”
State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), said the state not providing LSSI and other agencies their due funding for programs will cost the state more in the long run.
“There will be more people incarcerated. There will be less people in job-training programs,” Franks said. “The state has not done its part. This is going to affect the state down the road.”
Hailey said senior programs would be taking the biggest hit in LSSI’s consolidation of services. Programs being eliminated include case management for seniors, adult protective services and LSSI’s Adult Day Care Center in Moline.
LSSI’s Stutrud said the cuts came down to dollars and cents.
“We are eliminating spending that is most linked to nonpayment of services and redesigning our administrative support around a newly restructured organization,” he said. “Our plans respond to this year’s budget impasse and an anticipated lingering state financial crisis over the next several years. We’re doing this at a great cost to LSSI and those affected by our services.
“It has been an agonizing process, particularly its impact on our clients and their families who depend on us for their care, as well as our employees whose jobs were eliminated. Many of our employees are direct-care personnel who have built relationships and strong trust with the people they serve.”
— Illinois budget impasse hits senior care programs, job training —