A persistent group of nonprofit organizations that provide housing and other services to the homeless met with Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday after they say they petitioned and called his office hundreds of times.
They say the governor told them he would look into signing a bill that would unlock $310 million in state aid to fund homeless programs. That money is currently being held up in the state budget stalemate.
"They said they were going to look at it, check with the Office of Budget and Management to see if they could support it, and get back to us by Monday," said Julie Dworkin of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. "We hope it's a yes, but if not, we'll be right back here protesting on Monday."
Dworkin says that 90 percent of the money used to fund these programs comes from dedicated revenue streams that are separate from the state's general revenue fund, which is the main budget that is facing a potential $6.6 billion hole because of the rollback of the income tax increase and the eight-month budget stalemate.
"These are funds that are accumulating money and just sitting there," said Dworkin. "The governor may be considering holding on to them and sweeping them to fund other items. It's unconscionable that they wouldn't be spent on what they are supposed to be spent on."
Caprese Williams, a 22-year-old who was, until recently, pregnant and living out of her car, says the governor hugged her when she told him her story. Williams lived at a nonprofit called Harmony Village, which helped treat her for depression and then placed her in a job that she says she currently holds at Walgreens.
Harmony Village could be forced to close its doors by April without state funding.
"These are services we were already contracted to do and are awaiting payment," says Jeri Linas, executive director of Teen Living Programs. "You would never run a business like this."
"I hope this doesn't have to close because other girls like me need to be taken care of," Williams said.
The bill's house sponsor, State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, says he hasn't yet spoken to the governor on this bill.
"These special funds should not be [swept] and used for any other purpose than to help the most vulnerable, which is what they were intended to do," he said. "The governor should sign this bill immediately."
Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly issued the following statement:
"Governor Rauner agrees the status of homeless prevention programs is unacceptable. It’s why he’s has proposed a number of ways to fund social services and included funding in his FY2017 budget."
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
Feb. 9: The head of the state's largest social service organization says the state's ongoing budget impasse has now reached a crisis level that could impact the lives of hundreds of thousands vulnerable citizens.
Jan. 26: The state's largest social service provider is cutting programs and employees because of the state's budget impasse. We discuss these cuts – and what it means for those who rely on them – with David Novak of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois; and Dan Proft of the Illinois Policy Institute.
Jan. 25: The state's oldest and largest social service agency announces it will eliminate 30 programs and 40 percent of its staff. We bring you more on this and other news out of Springfield with Amanda Vinicky.