Notes from the Field...


State Budget Preserves Human Services Funding

Legislators in Springfield passed a $35 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2014 that preserves funding for the Department of Human Services (DHS) after years of deep cuts.

At $3.178 billion, the DHS budget is only slightly less compared with fiscal year 2013 – to the relief of advocates. In May, there was talk that the House’s budget bill would reduce DHS’s budget by 15%. But the state’s unexpected, one-time $1.2 billion increase in tax revenue in April helped prevent any drastic cuts. The tax revenue came from individuals and corporations selling assets to avoid higher tax rates that took effect this year.

The DHS budget was contained in HB 213, which passed the House and Senate during the last week of session. It covers the Departments of Aging, Children and Family Services, Healthcare and Family Services, Human Services, Public Health and Veterans Affairs.

The DHS budget closely resembles Gov. Quinn’s budget proposal but increases funding for some areas such as the Teen REACH afterschool program (7%) and child care assistance (1%).

Similarly, education programs were spared from cuts: Funding for early childhood education and bilingual education in FY ’14 is level with that of FY ’13. General State Aid to local school districts was increased by 4%.


Funding for early childhood education and K-12 education, though, is still far below the levels of just a few years ago. It’s the same situation for child care assistance in DHS’s budget. In addition, DHS will be able to hire new staff to assist with Medicaid expansion and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

While the DHS budget is of particular interest to United Way, the General Assembly’s failure to pass pension reform is a significant concern. Ballooning pension costs continue to squeeze funding for other departments, such as DHS. The state’s unfunded pension liability is almost $100 billion.

Differing pension plans passed in the House and Senate but House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were unable to reach agreement on a final version of the legislation. A special session in June resulted in the establishment of a conference committee consisting of legislators from both chambers charged with reaching a compromise between the competing versions of the bill.


Medicaid Expansion Passes Both State Houses


Health care advocates – including United Way – won a major victory in Springfield when legislators in both houses passed a bill to expand Medcaid to 342,000 Illinois residents.

Passed during the final week of the Spring legislative session, SB 26 will make poor adults who do not have dependent children eligible for coverage. The newly qualified must be between ages 19 and 64 and have incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $15,400 a year for an individual and $20,000 for a couple. Open enrollment begins on Oct. 1 and coverage starts Jan. 1.

To see who’s impacted by Medicaid expansion, check out this map from Illinois Health Matters.

Medicaid expansion, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, was left up to states in the Supreme Court ruling on health care reform last year. The federal government will cover the full cost of expansion for the first three years and would not fall below 90% thereafter.

Through 2016, SB26 will bring an estimated $4.6 billion into Illinois in the form of Medicaid provider payments for the newly eligible adults. Medicaid expansion also is expected to add 19,800 new jobs across all sectors of Illinois’ economy by 2016.

SB 26 first passed the Senate on a 40-19 vote on Feb. 28. It was sent to the House, where several amendments were added. The House passed the amended bill on a 63-55 vote on May 27. The Senate approved the House amendments the following day.

Some mental health advocates, though, are asking Gov. Quinn to veto House Amendment 1, which reclassified Institutes for Mental Disease (IMDs) as Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities. IMDs are state-funded and privately owned nursing homes for people with severe mental illness.

Negotiations are underway to draft legislation which would change IMDs into facilities that offer short-term, triage and crisis stabilization services focusing on recovery rather than the current model of long-term custodial care. Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities would be less restrictive, community-based settings. However, last month, many mental health advocates left negotiations because they viewed new regulations as turning the clock back on hard-fought victories to protect patient rights.


United Way Supports Efforts to Educate about New Learning Standards

More than 500 people learned about the state’s new learning standards at events United Way co-sponsored in late April.

Sandra Alberti, of the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners, spoke with 130 stakeholders in Springfield, including 24 legislators, about the Common Core State Standards. Legislators from the Education Committees and Appropriations Committees were well represented at the event.

The state’s new standards are being incorporated in English Language Arts and math classrooms this school year. Common Core standards will be implemented in all Illinois classes by this fall.

The learning standards, last updated in 1997, are intended to better prepare students for college and the workforce. With more complex content, the new standards also focus on real-world skills such as problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.


Alberti, a national expert on the Common Core, is helping spread the word about the new standards. Also in April, she told approximately 380 educators from across Chicagoland about key instructional shifts related to the Common Core.

The event, held in Arlington Heights, also featured Illinois Deputy Superintendent Susie Morrison and a panel of local administrators. The Daily Herald reported on the event.

Developed by a diverse group of education experts, Common Core standards:

In the fall, the Core Coalition launched a website dedicated to informing and engaging families and educators. United Way is a member of the Core Coalition, along with Advance Illinois, Illinois Business RoundTable, Latino Policy Forum and others.

To learn more about the Common Core, see video footage of the Springfield and Arlington Heights events.


Peoria Gets 2-1-1 Service, Feasibility Studied for Chicagoland

2-1-1 IL 4-color

Central Illinois residents are now connected to 2-1-1 Illinois, adding to a growing number of communities across the state that have access to the human services referral line.

The addition of Peoria, Tazwell, Woodford, Marshall, Stark and Putnam counties brings the number of Illinois counties with 2-1-1 access to 25. The referral line launched in Central Illinois as a result of a partnership between Heart of Illinois United Way and Advanced Medical Transport of Central Illinois.

2-1-1 operators connect callers with human services such as emergency shelter, counseling and mental health services, and employment support. The service launched in Illinois with a pilot program in 2009, the same year Gov. Quinn signed into law the 2-1-1 Service Act.

“People do need this help,” Michael Stephan, Heart of United Way president, told the Peoria Journal Star. United Way and Advanced Medical Transport are sharing the $500,000 annual cost to provide coverage.

In May, consultants with Deloitte completed a feasibility study to help United Way of Metro Chicago determine how to bring 2-1-1 to Chicago, Cook County suburbs and DuPage County. The process included all of the key stakeholders that are needed to develop and operate a calling center that would serve the 6 million people that live in the two counties. Plans are currently underway to develop a business plan and fundraising strategy to bring 211 to the region in the near future.


Recent Research


New America Foundation, Risks and Opportunities in Using Student Achievement Data to Evaluate PreK-3rd Grad Teachers

ACT Research and Policy, College and Career Readiness: The Importance of Early Learning

Advance Illinois, Funding Expectations

National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education


Center for American Progress, The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Feedback from the Financial Education Field

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Poverty Scorecard 2012


ZERO TO THREE, State Strategies for Improving Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

Institute of Medicine, Education the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Overlooked Connection Between Social Needs and Good Health