Notes from the Field...

January 2012

As the Illinois General Assembly returns to session, it's a good time to look back at recent events and achievements as we make our plans and continue or work around public policy and advocacy for the coming year.

Current Environment

During the past six months, we have seen advances in our issue areas of  Education, Income, Health and Sector Strength despite significant challenges at the state level. The state budget remains in stress with $6.8 billion in pension costs in FY 12 and $8.5 billion in unpaid bills. Moving forward, our advocacy strategy must focus on protecting existing policies, programs and funding that align with our four issue areas instead of pursuing new initiatives that require additional funding.

Recent Successes in Education, Income, Health and Sector Strength

Budgeting for Results

United Way of Illinois has been engaged in the state's new performance-based budgeting strategy since its inception in 2010 and is a part of the commission guiding the process. We welcome the state's effort to impose a more rational framework for establishing spending priorities. In November, the Budgeting for Results Commission submitted its first report to the Governor and General Assembly. In the report, the Commission proposes statewide prioritized goals, or results, and makes recommendations on the process for determining budget allocations.

Nonprofits have been deeply impacted by the state's ongoing budget deficit and its failure to pay for services already rendered. Nonprofits also stand to be deeply impacted by the Budgeting for Results strategy. In the coming year, United Way will play a leadership role in Budgeting for Results through its work on the Human Services Commission. (See below.) We will continue to work with the state and community-based providers to move forward in a way that does not harm providers.

Human Services Commission

Thanks to the advocacy of member organizations - including United Way - Gov. Quinn in December extended the life of the Human Services Commission through the end of 2012. The Commission will focus on three areas:

So far, the Human Services Commission has released three reports, its most recent report submitted to Gov. Quinn and the General Assembly in April. In September, United Way helped the Commission conduct three public hearings to solicit feedback on the FY 12 budget and Budgeting for Results.

Illinois Partners for Human Service

Now in its fourth year, this human services coalition has more than 700 member organizations statewide. In September, Illinois Partners, with the support of the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance conducted its annual survey of providers to identify the impact of state budget cuts and the effects of the state's continued late payments. The survey showed the state has 1,755 contracts with nonprofit organizations awaiting payment and 93% of responding human service organizations have been negatively impacted by state budget cuts in the last year.

Illinois Partners has attracted extensive media coverage on issues affecting the human service sector. And it has successfully advocated for significant improvements to the Department of Humans Services FY12 contract template. United Way of Illinois serves on Illinois Partners' executive committee and co-chairs its policy committee. We also led its Governance Task Force to incorporate and secure tax-exempt status.

2-1-1 Update

The 2-1-1 Service Act, which United Way championed three years ago, established a lead entity to govern and manage the expansion of calling centers to serve communities throughout the state. Last August 2-1-1 Illinois, a nonprofit organization including significant representation from local United Ways, was designated as the lead entity on behalf of the State of Illinois. Its board recently approved making permanent the three pilot calling centers in the Quad Cities, Greater St. Louis and Bloomington-Normal, which together cover 13 counties. An application for the first expansion of 2-1-1 has been developed, approved and implemented. This application is for a call center to provide 2-1-1 services for an 83-county area in Illinois. A final decision is expected this spring.