Social service agencies suffering due to budget impasse

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Next month, the governor plans to lay out a proposed budget for 2017.

Springfield's failure to approve a 2016 budget has barely affected most people in the state. But it has created an issue for the more than one million people who use social service agencies.

The state's failure to pay hundreds of millions of dollars has already forced some social service providers out of business. Hundreds more say they're on the verge, while others survive by reducing what they do.

“It's hard for me to believe that we are at this point in the State of Illinois,” said Sharmili Majmudar of Rape Victim Advocates.

At the four local offices of Rape Victim Advocates, those who've been sexually assaulted now have to wait up to six months before they can see a counselor. Victims say a long delay could be fatal for those feeling suicidal. 

“I remember thinking, if this therapy doesn't work, I'm done. I'm giving up. I was feeling hopeless,” said sex assault victim Marta Montes Madrid.

State government owes Rape Victim Advocates about $250,000. It owes Lutheran Social Services $6 million, forcing it to lay off 750 employees next month and shut 30 programs, including services for the homeless, mentally ill, drug addicts and seniors who need home care. The state owes Catholic Charities $16 million.

With smaller agencies already closed, the burden falls on those remaining, which is one reason the case load and the waiting time have grown at Rape Victims Advocates.

“People don't have anywhere to go,” Majmudar said.

For people who depend on state-funded social services, it doesn't appear things will improve any time soon. It's an election year, and both sides think they can spin the stalemate in Springfield to their own advantage.

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