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Situation worsens for agencies affect by state budget

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A new survey conducted by United Way of Illinois (UWI), the statewide association of 52 local United Ways and the largest non-governmental funder of health and human services in the state, shows Illinois' year-long budget impasse continues to starve the nonprofit sector and cause harm to vulnerable citizens across the state. 

In the fourth United Way of Illinois survey, more than half of safety net and mental health providers responded that they have been unable to meet the needs of clients for the past year. Survey respondents also indicated that the disruption in services will have long-term effects on the people they serve as extended waiting lists, the elimination of programs and triaging of clients mean more people are moving into crisis situations. The mentally ill who are not getting psychiatric services go to emergency rooms or jails and some of the young people who aren't in out-of-school time and job training programs become involved in the criminal justice system.

As of June 2016:

  • 54% of survey respondents anticipate they will have to cease serving clients in six months if the impasse continues;
  • Almost two-thirds of survey respondents reported making program and/or operational cuts, up from 48% in January 2016;
  • Of those agencies, 91% have cut the number of clients they serve, leaving nearly 1 million clients in Illinois without critical support, most significantly in the areas of mental health, substance abuse services and childhood education;
  • More than 50% of safety net and mental health providers indicated they could not meet the needs of their clients for the past year due to the impasse.

"We honestly wished we would have different news," said Kristi Long, United Way of Illinois Board chair.  "The survey results show accelerating damage since January—more program cuts, more clients left unserved, more debt. The mentally ill, disabled seniors and young children in need of educational opportunities — these people can't wait for the next election." 

Organizations have been unable to come close to filling the gap left by the state through additional fundraising efforts and have been forced to take extreme measures in order to continue serving clients. Agencies reported cutting back or eliminating vital programs, draining cash reserves and credit lines, laying off staff and considering the possibility of shutting their doors entirely.

In order to continue to serve clients:

  • 45% of respondents have been forced to lay off staff, up from 24% in January 2016;
  • 59% of respondents have used their cash reserves;
  • 33% of respondents have used lines of credit;
  • Respondents have taken on a combined $38 million in debt;
  • 36% of agencies anticipate they will have to close six months if the impasse continues.

This is the fourth survey conducted by United Way of Illinois on the state budget stalemate. The survey was conducted June 1-8 and responses were received from 429 human services agencies that receive state funding. Responses were received from every county in Illinois.

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.

For the full results, visit