Budget cuts affecting programs for disabled

October 25, 2009 (CHICAGO) How are organizations serving people with disabilities coping despite significant funding setbacks?

Although some funding was restored, many organizations still had to make cuts. They hope a better scenario will prevail during the fall veto session in Springfield.

Ada S. McKinley Community Services has 42 locations throughout the Chicago area and also in Milwaukee and Indiana. They serve 12,000 people with developmental disabilities.

Their budget was $41 million. Ninety percent of the funds came from the state.

"Our agency has really been downsized because of these cuts that have come into place. We lost about $2 million in revenue, and we had estimated that the revenue was going to be about $10 million but some money was restored," said George Jones, executive director.

They had to lay off 70 employees and eliminate services for 300 clients.

"These people had to go home and that their parents might have lost their job because they have to be there to take care of these people some of these people might have ended up back in state institutions," said Jones.

Jacques Sutton, 42, is lucky. He is still working at one of McKinley's community centers.

"I work here for pay, and I work here for a living," he said. "Doing my best to save during hard economic times, it's impossible to save. I gotta eat and I gotta help out my family and stuff."

If his job gets cut, he doesn't know what he'll do.

Ray Graham Association is located in DuPage County. They provide services to 2,500 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Their budget is $20 million. Eighty-five percent comes from the state.

"Nine hundred families who have children with disabilities have lost those services July 1. They were reinstated in August, but unfortunately, the commitment for funding only goes through December 31st," said Cathy Ficker-Terrill, president and CEO. "We've provided services for people with disabilities from March, April, May, June July now through September. We haven't been paid; we haven't been paid for services that we have provided from last March, state owes us in excess of $5 million for services rendered and not yet reimbursed.

"We received all kinds of positive feedback from state legislators, saying how committed they are for funding services for people with disability," Ficker-Terrill said. "But this week, I have been meeting with state legislators, and many of them were not aware that the funding cuts were not restored until December 31st."

Not-for-profit organizations are trying to think positive as the over-ride session is starting.

"My name is Cami Smith, and I have cerebral palsy. I have been a part of this community center for about five years not having friends come here but because of budget cuts would be very sad," said Cami Smith.

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