A photo showing the empty seats of state agency heads during a hearing in Springfield today, June 30. The hearing was held to discuss contingency plans in the event of a state government shutdown, which could happen if the legislature doesn't pass a budget by midnight, July 1. Photo courtesy state Rep. Chris Welch (7th).

As Springfield lawmakers struggle to hash out a budget before the state government virtually shuts down tomorrow, some nonprofits that provide critical services to West Side residents may be steadying themselves to lay off employees and reduce services.

One of those nonprofits, Youth Outreach Services (YOS), which has an office in Austin at 5910 W. Division St., “has already provided written notice to 60 employees that they will be laid off on July 1, 2015 if the state fails to have an approved budget by June 30,” said Rick Valesquez, YOS’s executive director, in a Wednesday Journal editorial letter.

“Because without a FY 2016 budget in place, there will be no state contracts to non-profit agencies, such as YOS, to provide critical services for at-risk youth in the Chicago area,” Valesquez said. “That means the immediate suspension of substance abuse treatment and prevention programs that keep kids safe.”

Judith Gethner, the executive director of Illinois Partners for Human Service, said nonprofits across the state are in the same position as YOS.

“Nonprofits are deciding whether or not to risk delivering services [and] most of them are waiting to see if they even get a contract from the state,” she said, adding that many nonprofits received email notices warning them that if those contracts don’t come through, they won’t get paid.

“The media is only talking about union contracts that are set to expire, whether or not state workers will get paid and school districts,” Gethner said. “My frustration is that right in everyone’s backyard are these nonprofits delivering childcare, domestic violence services, homeless services … Why isn’t anyone writing about the dilemma they’ll face on July 1?”

Last Thursday, June 25, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the majority of a budget passed by Democrats in the House and Senate, making an exception for critical funds necessary for public schools across the state to open on time in the Fall. In order to override the governor’s veto, Democrats would need to martial a three-fifths veto-proof supermajority in the House and Senate.

The Democrats have the numbers for an override, but getting that many of them to actually vote on one has been historically difficult.

“We don’t have a history in our state of all the Democrats [getting together to override a veto],” said Gethner. “Even in the most difficult of times — like when they passed a temporary income tax—not all Democrats voted for it.”

Added to that difficulty is what some political observers say is state Democrats’ wish to force the governor’s hand by making him either implement cuts or raise taxes to cover a $4 billion shortfall in the Democrats’ proposed budget.

Rauner has reiterated that he won’t raise taxes unless the Democrats approve his controversial “turnaround agenda,” which includes a series of proposals that would freeze property taxes, establish anti-union ‘right-to-work-zones’ and place limits on the number of terms legislators and state officials can have, among other changes.

In the absence of the governor’s signature or a Democratic override of the governor’s veto, nonprofits — and, by extension, the livelihoods of the many people who depend on their services — hang in the balance.

“We’re held hostage because of them not getting along,” Gethner said of the two governmental branches.

Democratic lawmakers, however, say that the seriousness of a possible government shutdown isn’t lost on their side.

“Nonprofits are in trouble,” said state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (8th). “The [Rauner administration] is not being truthful about the danger and recklessness of a government shutdown.”

Today, June 30, Democrats considered passing a $2.2 billion temporary budget that would fund a range of core state services, such as programs for the mentally ill, rehabilitation services, WIC food assistance and juvenile justice services — emergency funding that still doesn’t bring many area nonprofits into the clear.

But at a hearing in Springfield on contingency plans in the case fo a July 1 government shutdown, none of the state’s agency directors showed up.

“Illinois is on the verge of a government shutdown and none of the agency directors bothered to show up to discuss contingency plans. None. DCFS, DHFS, Public Health, Human Services, Aging,” wrote state Rep. Chris Welch (7th) on his Instagram page above a picture of empty chairs.

“The governor sent his chief budget person, instead,” said Rep. Ford. “The governor said there was no need for them to come. He said that, instead, the people who are working on the budget should show up for the committee of the whole. The directors are going to do what the governor tells them, anyway. All of them are Rauner’s appointees. They don’t have much to do with making the budget. They simply run the programs and spend the money the legislator appropriates.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Democrats may likely call a vote today, June 30, on the one-month $2.2 bill temporary bill, which would “allow money to flow to some vital services since the state moves into a new fiscal year at midnight with no operating budget.”

In order to pass, the temporary budget will need to be voted on by a supermajority in the House and Senate. One “Democratic insider” told the Sun-Times that the likelihood of the budget passing is “strong.” 

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