Dec. 1, 2015 marked five months since the state of Illinois has been without a budget. While the Democratic legislature continues to be at odds with first-term governor Bruce Rauner, state funds are tied up and drying up quickly for critical social programs and organizations that support religious groups, veterans, elderly, law enforcement and children alike.
The damage that is currently being done by this tug of war over funding has left too many organizations seeking outside help to stay afloat. Not sure how the budget crisis in Illinois is impacting your local community? We've got the answers and an idea on what you can do to help.
The Downward Spiral of No Budget
Unless you are directly impacted by the budget crisis, you may not realize the type of real problems that are part of the downward spiral. While the Chicago Tribune reports that 80 percent of funds tied up in the budget crisis continues to flow to key organizations, the paper fails to highlight those who need that other 20 percent.
In the past five months, substantial amounts of funding have for counseling services and violence-prevention programs, as well as those programs that help keep children off the streets, have been cut. As a result, church groups, after school activities, and youth centers have been forced to terminate programs or close altogether.
Without these organizations actively providing help to those who need it — whether it is a child with no place to be after school or a veteran dealing with PTSD, violence is bound to rise.
In fact, according to one report, the killing rate in the city of Chicago is up 400 percent from summer 2014. In addition to this, funding has been cut off to assistance programs for low-income families and specialized police training programs. Without these programs, families are likely to experience cold nights without food or power in the coming months — all while officers are unable to properly handle situations with mentally ill persons.
The Dawn of Social Enterprise
Yes, the situation in Illinois is looking bleak. As news reports indicate, there is no sign of an agreement on the budget crisis in sight. Many are worried that a government shutdown is inevitable. Yet a bright light in the sea of darkness comes in the form of social enterprise.
What is social enterprise? It is the commitment of an organization or business to actively do what it can to help the community, better the lives of people in it and provide real solutions to social problems.
Social enterprise organizations are truly for the people and by the people. They reinvest most of their profits into the business and their local community, instead of into their pockets. As a result, those that are around them also benefit and help create a life-cycle of business that helps all involved thrive.
What Can You Do?
Continued budget crises not only in Illinois but also in other states and on a federal level have proven that we, as a society, need to watch out for each other. While you might not have the means to launch your own gardening program or local shop, you can still be active in the social enterprise spirit.
In days and times like these, we have to be creative and start creating sustainable incomes for our organizations to continue the work that we need so that we won't always have to depend on the government.
There are countless ways that you can help your community by simply investing a little time and energy for the greater good. After all, when one benefits, we all benefit — that's what community is all about.
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