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Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008 05:42 am

The color of the cutbacks

Who will go? At what cost?

A Springfield-based state workers advocacy group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Illinois Department of Human Rights about the impact of proposed layoffs at state agencies. The Illinois Association of Minorities in Government requested a breakdown by race and gender of employees receiving layoff notices, says IAMG executive director Jonathan Lackland. Hundreds of staff cutbacks have been announced in the months since Gov. Rod Blagojevich made $1.4 billion in cuts to entities under his control as well as the offices of other state elected officials.

Last week, the IAMG and Illinois Association of Hispanic State Employees met with members of the African-American and Latino caucuses and House appropriations committee during a special session, to express concern that cuts will dramatically affect key state services. The House later voted to restore more than $200 million of the cuts, but the Senate hasn't acted.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family services, for example, will trim between 200 and 300 employees. Lackland says DCFS workers help members of vulnerable populations get their lives back on track. The need for bilingual services is also more prevalent at DCFS than any other state agency, Lackland adds. Carlos Charneco, president of the Hispanic state employees group, is concerned that when the cuts occur, agencies could be in violation of federal laws that requires states to provide language access to individuals seeking federally funded services.

"To cut social programming via layoffs, you're going to force people into dire situations," Lackland says.

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