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Thursday, June 18, 2009 08:00 am

No notches left on our belt

Social service agencies throughout Illinois have recently received notices of funding cuts. Here is reaction from one of them.

ARC Community Support Systems, an organization serving infants, children and adults with developmental disabilities with offices in Effingham and Richland County, received notification on Monday, June 15, from the Illinois Department of Human Services that its funding will be cut by $1.5 million starting July 1.

These cuts will affect every infant, child, adult and family served by ARC Community Support Systems. In some cases, entire programs and services will be eliminated.

This is appalling news. Without services from us our fellow citizens with disabilities will lose their homes and their jobs. They will have no other place to go. It also means infants and children we serve across central Illinois will lose services that help keep their families together.

Illinois was already in 51st place when compared to the other states and the District of Columbia in funding for community services for people with disabilities. Now, to add insult to injury, the Illinois government has dealt this final, devastating blow. We have continued to make cuts year after year. Everyone has to tighten their belts because these are difficult times, but there are no notches left on our belt.

ARC-CSS barely managed to deal with previous cuts without denying services to a single infant, child or adult with a developmental disability. Unfortunately, with nothing in its budget left to trim, ARC-CSS is unable to withstand these massive new cuts and will have to deny services to those who need them.

ARC Community Support Systems operates under a $6.4 million annual budget. These new cuts equal a 23.4 percent reduction in funding in addition to the previous cuts. We serve 481 infants, children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families who will find themselves without services on July 1. And the cuts will have repercussions for a long time. Funding for an agency like ARC Community Support Systems is like a house of cards. When one card, or program, is removed, it makes things very shaky. If enough cards are removed, the house cannot stand.

There are other places in the budget that the General Assembly and the governor can find the necessary revenue to support the state. But, as often seems to be the case, the people with the greatest need have the weakest voice.

It’s horrible that it has come to this. And now, the one last chance of averting this final disaster looks like a slim one. The only hope left for people with disabilities is that the legislators will come to their senses before July 1. What we need now are statesmen, not politicians, to do what is right for our fellow citizens with developmental disabilities.

Dick Reimers is executive director of ARC-CSS.

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