Tuesday, August 04, 2009

State Budget Cuts Affect Social Services

Illinois citizens are becoming increasingly concerned about the recent revisions to the state budget. In hopes of avoiding an immediate economic collapse, the legislature has implemented a new “stop-gap” spending plan that allows them to borrow $3.5 billion in order to avoid a hike in income tax rates according to progressillinois.com. Many legislators see this new budget as a compromise compared to the original “50 Percent Budget” plan they suggested in early June that slashed budgets even more radically. The 50 percent plan would have passed, however, if it were not for fervent citizen protest and the ultimate veto by Governor Quinn.

Regardless of the new plan’s attempts to minimize budget cuts, it has still resulted in a severe cutback of funding for many social services vital to the welfare of Illinois citizens. Pslweb.org has reported that social service organizations will suffer a cut of $2.1 billion immediately, and an additional $1.1 billion later this year. In anticipation of revisions to the state budget, many non-profit and social service organizations began to prepare for the worst by prematurely laying off employees. This has caused the Illinois unemployment rate to jump higher than the national average in the last month. The new budget attempts to save money by shutting down so called “duplicate” service agencies that share similar aims and objectives. But, this creates the even bigger problem of how to handle the overflow of displaced clients that will inundate the remaining organizations. As a whole, progressillinois.com reports that social services are proposed to receive 85% of what they did in the previous budget, which is sure to have an effect on the individual organizations that aid the Muslim community.

A likely target is the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a non-profit that advocates for social justice, provides a free health clinic, youth services, and food pantry. Another agency that is anticipated to suffer from the new state budget is Arab American Family Services (AAFS) which helps those who suffer from domestic abuse, child abuse, and youth behavioral issues. It is feasible that the state will view these organizations as duplicates of other anti-abuse or social justice agencies and will be cut in favor of more generic agencies that do not cater specifically to the Muslim community. The budget cuts, therefore, make it possible for Muslims to lose the special attention they rely on from these agencies.
The specific details of the cuts Muslim non-profits will undergo have not yet been released by Governor Quinn, but the decrease of funds allocated to the social services sector holds little promise for equitable distribution among its smaller organizations. Agencies such as IMAN and AAFS fall under the category of community health programs, which are already facing budget cuts of around $108 million, therefore, it is likely to anticipate they will be greatly disadvantaged as will the Muslim community as a whole.


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