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Local News

State budget provides funding for Joliet social service agencies

JOLIET – Social service agencies that struggled through the state's budget stalemate will get more funding from the state budget approved last week, but it's not clear how much and how fast.

"I know it helps us, but I don't know how much," said Missy Martin, program manager for Joliet-based Disability Resource Center (formerly Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living.)

Martin is going to a meeting in Springfield on Friday where she expects to lean more about the impact of the budget for her center and others.

Disability Resource Center laid off one employee and instituted furlough days last year to deal with late payments for contracted services with the state.

Other Joliet agencies, including the Spanish Community Center, talked about potential layoffs or sharply reduced services without a budget in place. Representatives from the Spanish Community Center could not be reached Wednesday..

State Rep. Larry Walsh, D-Elwood, said the budget in general provides more funding for social services and creates bonding authority to make a dent in the states' $15 billion backlog in unpaid bills.

"Most social service agencies were in the budget," Walsh said. "Some programs were cut back a little bit – as much as 5 percent. Others had gains."

State departments had budgets cut 5 percent, Walsh said, but the agencies that contract with Illinois to provide services should get more money from the budget.

The budget provides money allowing programs that treat people with developmental disabilities to give raises of 75 cents an hour to caretakers – not as much as they were seeking.

"They were trying to get $15 an hour. We just didn't have the money to do it," Walsh said.

The funding means local agencies, including Cornerstone Services and Trinity Services, can give caretakers their first raise in years.

Both agencies said they were losing workers to warehouses and other employers because wages had stagnated without Illinois providing more money. Administrators said they had begun to consolidate staffing for group homes because there were not enough people to go around.

The state budget also gives Gov. Bruce Rauner bonding authority to issue bonds for $6 billion to pay off some of the oldest bills owed to state contractors, Walsh said. Basically, the state would borrow money to pay off bills.

"If the governor goes out and bonds it, that influx of money should be coming through," Walsh said.

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