Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

February 28, 2013

Illinoisans brace for federal cuts, furloughs

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"I'm praying a lot," she said.

In Chicago, Lutheran Social Services Illinois is bracing for a $53,500 reduction in federal funding for mental health and substance abuse services, said Tim Sheehan, the nonprofit's executive director of behavioral health services. That means two case managers would lose their jobs, Sheehan said, and possibly the closing one of the agency's six "recovery homes" for sober alcoholics and drug-free addicts trying to re-enter the workforce.

Thousands of senior citizens could face losing their free, taxpayer-subsidized meals. Cuts could cost the state's senior nutrition program $764,000 over the next year, amounting to the equivalent of a quarter million meals served at senior centers and 670,000 home-delivered ones, said Chris Fulton of the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois. That would affect roughly 10,000 people.

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EDUCATION

Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, said her nonprofit is trying to prepare for what the White House says would be the elimination of Head Start and Early Head Start services for about 2,700 Illinois children. The programs help low-income children from birth to age 5 get ready to enter school.

Rauner said her group, which serves 1,341 children through partnership with seven agencies, hasn't received any guidance from the government as to how much its funding is likely to be reduced.

"It's not just cold-hearted. It's stupid economic policy," Rauner said.

Research has shown that kids who have access to Head Start services are better students and are more likely to stay in school and go on to be productive adults. So, she argued, shortchanging the investment in Head Start now could have long-term implications.

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HIGHER EDUCATION

The White House indicated earlier this week that money for research, financial aid and work-study programs would be cut, but there's head-scratching about just what that means.

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