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Government, Politics & Issues

On Day One without state funding, Metro East agencies and workers keep a wary eye on Springfield

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Flickr | Taber Andrew Bain
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July 1 marked the official start of a new fiscal year, and the state of Illinois is without a working budget for most state services.

For now things seem to be in a holding pattern in the Metro East. Illinois State Troopers based in Collinsville are reporting to work and expect to get paid as normal. Cahokia Mounds remains open on its reduced Wednesday through Sunday schedule.

But many area service providers are on pins and needles as they wait to see if and when they’ll get reimbursed.

“It’s truly a moving target. Just a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos. Not just (for) us but (for) providers all across the state in terms of what is actually going to happen over the next few days and weeks,” said Jassen Strokosch with Children’s Home & Aid, an agency that operates in 60 counties in Illinois.

Children’s Home & Aid determines a family’s eligibility for child care subsidies in the Metro East, enrolling children in the program and referring parents to child care providers.

Strokosh said the latest word from the Department of Human Services is that work on the child care assistance program will be reimbursed, allowing his agency to hold off on some staffing reductions for now. But, he added, that could all change again tomorrow.

“It’s the kind of thing where a lot of information sort of rolls in piecemeal. Things change every day,” Strokosch said. “And so while we’re trying to be as nimble as we can and respond because we want what’s best not only for our employees but also for the children and families we serve. But it’s very difficult to be responsive when things are changing this quickly.”

The Illinois budget impasse also leaves a question mark when it comes to funding state services for older adults and people with disabilities.

Paralee Stewart is one of thousands of home care workers in the state who isn’t sure when she’ll next get paid. She has helped a Belleville woman with M.S. get around her house and do everyday chores for four years. But now her client has moved away.

“With these budget cuts I may not get another client and so I may have to start looking for something else even though I enjoy this job extremely,” Stewart said.

Stewart said she can make it a month without a new paycheck coming in, but if state funding for home care isn’t approved by then she’ll have to look elsewhere for work.

Even if a budget gets passed, however, Stewart’s search for a new client will be more difficult due to stricter eligibility requirements now in place for home care in Illinois. According to Stewart, her former client’s disability is ranked a 30, and now people need to have a disability ranking of 37 or higher in order to qualify.

“She was in a wheelchair. I had to help her in and out of the chair, in and out of the shower and she was at a 30,” Stewart said.

Stewart is a member of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which held vigils across the state Tuesday night to bring attention to the impact a government shutdown could have on its workers and people who rely on state-funded social services.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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