Where’s Our Partner?
For Immediate Release – (May 3, 2017)
STERLING, IL – As the largest private funder of human services across the state, United Ways in every community and their partners have invested in individuals and neighborhoods: supporting youth, providing job training, helping the elderly and those with disabilities, and connecting individuals to physical and mental health care. In all of these efforts, United Way has played a parallel role with the state to build a strong human infrastructure in communities across Illinois.
We are part of what was once a public-private partnership. However, our public partner has apparently abdicated responsibility for individuals and families who need and benefit from strong community support.
Nearly two years of a state budget impasse and hundreds of millions in unpaid bills have left community resources depleted and directly damaged the social and economic fiber of neighborhoods across the state.
A recent state-wide survey of human service agencies conducted by United Way of Illinois shows significant damage to service delivery mere months since agencies were given a small stop-gap funding “reprieve.”
Much like roads, hospitals and schools, community services are part of our state’s vital public infrastructure that must be maintained and strengthened. In order to continue advancing the common good, we must make sure the state has a well-managed and highly coordinated network of community services.
We know that committed, stable investment in our young people and in training for living wage jobs is key not only to solving social challenges like poverty and violence, but also to growing our economy. The lack of urgency from the state in passing a full and adequately funded budget—stopgap measures are Band-aids—is nothing short of negligent, given rising violence in our metro area, population decline, and the loss of jobs and talent we’re experiencing in Illinois.
Some may see this funding crisis as an opportunity to roll back the state’s responsibility for community well-being—to let the private sector step in. But that’s impossible. According to the same survey data, nine out of 10 service providers have been unable to replace even 25 percent of the loss in state funding. United Ways and other organizations, along with generous Illinoisans, are doing their best on the private end of this partnership, but cannot plug the hole left by the magnitude of the state funding gap. Nor is it our role to do so.
We need our public partner to resolve their issues and get back in the business of ending violence, putting people to work, enrolling students in state schools and making Illinois a great place to live.
United Way of Whiteside County is encouraged by indications that Gov. Rauner and House Speaker Madigan may be discussing a workable compromise, as the din from social service agencies, school districts and others suffering from this logjam fill the newswires.
Recently reported "hints" legislative leaders might support a budget with changes that will help create jobs, fund education and reduce property taxes gives us hope.
Let us hope the hints amount to more than pacification.