Notes from the Field...

March-April 2011

United Way Lobby Day

About 20 people representing United Ways across Illinois - both staff and volunteers - gathered in Springfield on April 7 to advocate for Education, Income, Health and Strengthening the Human Service Sector.

Lobbying of legislators and executive branch officials centered on the three clear messages:

We were greeted by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the chair of the House Human Services Appropriation Committee, who thanked us for our engagement in advocacy efforts on behalf of the human service sector. The group met with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Deputy Governor for Public Policy Cristal Thomas from the executive branch. Each of them was receptive to the concerns we raised and expressed support for United Way's work in the community.

As our group traveled together between meetings we ran into Rep. William Delgado and Rep. Lisa Dugan in hallways. The United Way of Illinois is backing Rep. Delgado's effort to give the state authority to develop and maintain an immunization data registry (HB 1338) and Rep. Dugan's effort to pass a vendor rights bill (HB 1328).

Some participants then met with local legislators in their offices. Others waited outside the House or Senate chambers to grab a few minutes with representatives while the legislature was in session.

Special thanks to Paula and Jenni Purdue for their excellent support in all the logistics and scheduling and guidance both before and throughout the day. Our public policy agenda is an essential part of the work we are all doing to have community impact on the issues that we all care about and are invested in throughout Illinois. The voice and influence of United Way is truly making a difference!

The State Budget: Cuts to Human Services and Budgeting for Outcomes

State cuts to human services remain a critical concern. Advocacy to protect the sector has focused on multiple fronts:

FY11

Budgeted cuts to the Department of Human Services (DHS) topped $300 million for fiscal year 2011, which ends in June. However, the state did not accurately predict agency needs for the entire fiscal year.

In early February, reports suggested DHS would suffer a devastating $400 million in cuts for the rest of FY11. Gov. Quinn planned to cut about $200 million from DHS but reduced that amount to about $100 million after persistent advocacy efforts by providers.

The state Office of Management and Budget ultimately settled on $57 million in cuts to DHS.

FY12

Also in February, Gov. Quinn proposed a fiscal year 2012 budget that slashed $388 million from DHS. That amount is particularly troubling considering the sector has experienced significant cuts for the past decade. In addition, the balance between state-operated facilities and community-based care continues to shift in the wrong direction.

The General Assembly, though, is pursuing its own budget using a new approach. Unlike in years past, House Speaker Madigan gave the Appropriations Committees authority to determine budget amounts.

The House and Senate recently forecasted revenues at different levels, which will have to be reconciled. The House's $33.2 billion in revenues is considered conservative. The Senate projected $34.3 billion. The Governor's budget identified $33.9 billion in revenues. Regardless of the revenue projection that is eventually agreed on there will be cuts to human service programs.

The budget is expected to be approved by the end of May.

Budgeting for Outcomes

While the Governor framed his proposed fiscal year 2012 budget as Budgeting for Outcomes, the state's new approach is still ambiguous.

Regardless, human service providers should collect data on the impact of their work to ensure future funding. It's unclear if the state's definition of an "outcome" matches providers, which poses a significant challenge. Also concerning is the effect of budget cuts on providers' ability to produce desired outcomes.

Representatives from Illinois Partners for Human Service recently met with Sen. Dan Kotowski, appropriations chairman, and John Kamis, a senior advisor to Gov. Quinn to ensure the perspective of philanthropy and providers is included in how Budgeting for Outcomes ultimately will work.

Vendor Payment Program

At the end of March, the state restarted its Vendor Payment Program piloted in the Department of Human Services last year.

The program is intended to take the pressure off of vendors and service providers who have been waiting several months to be paid.

The Vendor Payment Program works like this:

To find out how participate, go to payments.illinois.gov.

Streamlined Auditing Steering Committee and Related Legislation

With the active support of United Way, HB 5124, the Streamlined Auditing Bill passed last year and was a major victory for human service providers and advocates. The new law, PA 96-1141, is designed to save providers time and money by reducing the number of required audits and accreditations.

Efforts now are focused on implementing the recommendations outlined in the HB 5124 report and passing supplementary legislation this year.

In late February, the 5124 Steering Committee and representatives of various state departments met and divided into work groups on the following topics:

The new law ultimately requires the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Public Health to perform internal reviews of provider contracts, auditing requirements, licensing and training requirements, and mandated reporting.

The Department of Human Services and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services are responsible for developing and implementing the system for streamlined auditing and accreditation.

HB 1488

Sponsored by Rep. Chapin Rose, HB 1488 would create a Management Improvement Initiative Committee to implement recommendations in the HB 5124 Report, which is required under the new law.

The committee's leadership team will include representatives from the following state departments: Aging, Children and Family Services, Healthcare and Family Services, Human Services and Public Health. The team is expected to report its progress to the General Assembly on May 1.

The bill passed in early March and was sent to the Senate, where it is in the Senate Assignments Committee.

Other legislation:

HB 1338 would establish statutory rules for the state's existing electronic immunization data registry system, the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Registry Exchange (I-CARE).

The Immunization Data Registry Act would give the state authority to develop and maintain an immunization data registry to collect, store, analyze, release and report immunization data.

The Illinois Department of Public Health already operates and maintains I-CARE so there is no additional cost to Illinois to implement this legislation. In fact, better use of and participation in the I-CARE system could lead to cost-savings for the state by helping to create a more efficient immunization system.

The bill passed the House in late March and is currently in the Senate Assignments Committee.

HB 1328 creates the Vendor Rights Act. The bill prevents state agencies from terminating or altering the terms of a contract, grant or purchase-of-care agreement with less than 90 days' written notice.

It only allows the state and vendor to modify contracts, grants or purchase-of-care agreements based on the mutual consent. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Dugan, had a first reading in February but has since has been referred to the Rules Committee a second time. It is not expected to pass as currently written because of resistance from the Governor's office. Efforts continue to develop a version of the bill that can pass the General Assembly this session.