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posted: 2/16/2017 5:22 PM

Editorial: Domestic violence programs are unnecessary, innocent victims of state budget confusion

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  • State of Illinois officials waited more than five months last year to alert 62 domestic violence programs that funding had been eliminated -- possibly by mistake.

    State of Illinois officials waited more than five months last year to alert 62 domestic violence programs that funding had been eliminated -- possibly by mistake.
    Associated Press File Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

In this space on Thursday, we urged lawmakers and the governor to work for a solution to the state's budget stalemate as soon as possible.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he was willing to compromise and state Senate leaders are working toward such a compromise.

It's been two years, so a solution can't come soon enough. And that's especially true for social service agencies that rely on state funding and need to know what dollars might be coming.

The continued wrangling, however, is no excuse for what the state did to domestic violence programs as reported by the Associated Press in a story published in the Daily Herald Wednesday.

The AP said Illinois officials waited more than five months last year to alert 62 domestic violence programs that approximately $9 million in funding had been eliminated in the stopgap budget approved in June. And to make matters worse, no one in authority is saying why the funding was eliminated -- in fact, it may have been a mistake.

Illinois Human Services Secretary James Dimas sent a letter in December to all providers alerting them that the money was left out of the temporary six-month budget that expired at the end of the year. He told providers that were was "some confusion" about funding in the six-month spending plan and vowed to get it returned when money is available.

That's a hollow promise and one that came months too late, given the state's spending woes. And no further explanations have been forthcoming about why the money was removed.

The effect of the removal has been swift and devastating for those agencies that provide shelter, counseling and advocacy for victims of domestic abuse. In Kane County, for example, Mutual Ground, a 24-hour shelter and counseling center, laid off four people in November, the AP reported, after not receiving state checks or answers as to why not. Another six already had left the agency and Mutual Ground was unable to afford to replace them, executive director Michelle Meyer said.

"We have no more case managers who help clients get benefits, housing, child care, accompany them to court, Meyer said. "There's nobody to pick up that work. Everybody that we can't help is put on a waiting list."

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports on its website that the funding reductions and untimely payments from the state is causing serious problems in helping the nearly 42,000 adults victims and 8,000 child witnesses of domestic violence that Illinois agencies served last year.

"On just one day," the coalition reports, "Illinois domestic violence programs couldn't meet the needs of over 700 survivors seeking services. We suspect these numbers will only increase over time, as they have increased in each of the last three years. Reductions in funding are adding to struggles domestic violence programs already face. Costs of doing business increase every year, yet funding has remained stagnant, or been reduced, forcing programs to turn away even more survivors seeking help."

Domestic violence is a real problem. Illinois has been shirking its duty, and this is just one example of why state lawmakers and the governor need to put politics aside and come up with a workable budget.

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