Housing Action Illinois, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, released a new report about the impact that the current Illinois budget impasse could have on critical housing and homeless service programs. The report entitled, The State Budget Impasse is Causing Homelessness in Illinois: A Responsible Budget with Adequate Revenue is Urgently Needed, focuses on the true cost of the impasse and highlights the pressing need for a responsible budget agreement to adequately fund affordable housing and homeless service programs.
The Illinois state budget negotiations for FY16 are occurring after the expiration of a temporary 2011 income tax increase. Along with other fiscal pressures such as pension obligations, Illinois faces a projected accumulated deficit in its general revenue fund of approximately $12.7 billion by the end of FY16 if spending on services is held flat at FY15 levels. The Illinois constitution requires the state to operate under a balanced budget.
In February, newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner (R) proposed an FY16 budget with devastating cuts to homeless and affordable housing programs. The General Assembly, controlled by Democrats, responded with its own spending plan without these cuts. It passed on a strictly party-line vote. The Assembly failed, however, to raise revenues adequate for the level of spending in its budget. Despite holding a supermajority in the General Assembly, Democrats were reluctant to raise taxes without some Republican votes. Governor Rauner vetoed the General Assembly’s budget in June, and a subsequent attempt by the Assembly in July to override the veto failed. The budget process is now at an impasse.
While a number of government activities have remained funded during the impasse, funding for homeless and affordable housing programs ceased on July 1, leaving many homeless service agencies and their clients in crisis.
The report, released September 9, provided the results of a survey of 101 homeless service providers across the state. The survey asked what measures the providers have already taken in response to the budget impasse and what steps they will need to take if the impasse continues. Ninety percent of responding agencies have already begun, or will begin soon, to limit their intake of new clients, reduce or eliminate services for current clients, lay off staff, implement furlough days or reduced work hours for staff, eliminate programs, or close sites.
The report also found that:
- People who are at-risk of homelessness are not able to secure homeless prevention grants to help them avoid homelessness.
- Individuals and families who are already homeless are having a harder time accessing emergency shelter and transitional housing.
- Unaccompanied youth separated from their family are less able to access shelter beds that keep them off the street and safe from victimization.
- Victims of domestic violence are less able to access the crisis services that guarantee their safety and protect them from additional abuse.
- Permanent supportive housing providers are having difficulty offering services for tenants that are necessary to help people stay in their housing.
According to the report, 85% of survey respondents expressed concern about how “the absence of state funds could impact their ability to provide matching funding for federal dollars.” In FY14, the Continuum of Care (CoC) awards, the Emergency Solutions Grant Program (ESG), and the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Program provided $115,658,145 in funding to homeless programs in Illinois. Given that each of these programs requires matching funds, the cessation of state funding due to the impasse and proposed cuts put Illinois at substantial risk of losing this federal funding.
The report also presents compelling data on the long-term costs of delaying action and cutting homeless and affordable housing programs. Regarding the Governor’s proposed 46% cut to supportive housing services, the report finds that at an “average per-person annual cost to the state of $4,000, supportive housing is vastly more affordable than housing an individual in a state mental hospital ($127,810 per person), state prison ($38,268), or nursing home setting ($62,050).” In response to the Governor’s proposed cuts to the state’s homeless youth programs, the report states that the average annual cost of providing housing and homeless services to a homeless youth in Illinois is $16,700, while the annual cost to incarcerate a youth is $111,000 and to provide substitute care through the Department of Children and Family Services is $48,328.
The report concludes that Governor Rauner and the General Assembly must take decisive action to pass a budget that minimizes cuts to critical affordable housing and homeless programs while raising sufficient revenue to balance the budget.
Bob Palmer, Policy Director at Housing Action Illinois and member of the NLIHC Board of Directors, says “The report has already garnered a great deal of media attention. We’re hoping this attention will help Governor Rauner and the General Assembly act immediately to pass a responsible budget that adequately funds homeless and affordable housing programs. The most vulnerable families in Illinois simply cannot afford for this impasse to continue or for there to be further cuts to these essential programs.”
For more information please contact Bob Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org