A number of local agencies are upset that there is no money to pay for summer youth programs, child care, home health care, hospital and nursing and more things that the poor rely on to survive. The directors of several local organizations are holding rally’s and protest actions in hopes of getting Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to release their money.
Nearly 600 young people came out to Emerson Park Development Corp. on Wednesday morning looking for summer employment. They were told by officials there that there is no money for Emerson Park to hire them. Collectively, the young people let out long deep sighs of disgust.
One young man, Jeremy Gilkey, 16, “We need jobs. We want to work, but they don’t want us to work. They give us a bad rap in the media and say we are doing all kinds of bad things. We are not. We came out in big numbers today to show them that we are here because we want to work. We don’t want to hang out on street corners.” Gilkey said he wants to help his mother with bills, and buy some shoes and clothes for himself. He said he wants to buy some personal items to take care of his hygiene. He wants to have money in his pockets so he can go to the mall, the movies, or do some other things young people like to do when they have money.
“This is very disappointing. We want the governor to walk in the shoes we are walking in, then maybe he would understand how we feel,” Gilkey said.
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Tanesha Estes, 16, was just as disappointed as Gilkey at the news that there will be no youth summer employment at this point.
Vicky Kimmel-Forby, executive director of Emerson Park Development Corp., encouraged the young people to call their elected officials and tell them that they need their help in getting the governor to put the money back into the budget that he took out for summer youth employment.
Forby fears that many young people may get into trouble without positive things to do while they are out of school for the summer. A job teaches them discipline and responsibility and it enables them to contribute into the tax base where they live. Forby said she wants the young people to call their representatives every day for the next few weeks. Then on June 16, she wants them to come to the East St. Louis Public Library at 5 p.m., when city leaders will be discussing what St. Clair County wants to do with workforce investment money.
“Show up in mass. Bring a friend with each of you. You have a voice. Politicians call young people sleeping giants. They don’t believe you will get up and roar. What do we want?” she asked.
“Summer jobs,” the young people, who filled the auditorium at Emerson Park Development Corp., shouted back loudly.
Rauner’s office released a statement via his press secretary, Catherine Kelly.
“Illinois’ fiscal crisis comes from years of unbalanced, phony budgets of Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton, and without reform, difficult choices were made. Governor Rauner is working to grow the middle class through pro-jobs reforms and a property tax freeze, and the Madigan-Cullerton budget protects the insiders of the political class at the expense of the most vulnerable.” Kelly said.
Forby said the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) pays for the summer employment youth program run by Emerson Park. Kelly said “the Madigan-Cullerton budget does not provide money for this program either. Yes, the funding comes from DCEO.”
Thursday afternoon, a group of people who are members of Service Employees International Union took to the streets. Endia Ford said Rauner, while claiming to to support efforts that will strengthen the future of Illinois, “is actually attacking the most critical piece of our future – our children,” Endia Ford said.
The group met at 25th and State streets and walked through the streets denouncing the Rauner cuts and calling on the governor to walk and live in their shoes so he can understand the hardship they are living,
Ford, 61, has a daycare. She said Rauner, in the five months that he has been in office “has shown nothing but disregard for our children.”
“He’s cutting child care. There is going to have to be a new waiting list for parents whose children need daycare assistance. Parents are trying to go to school and need daycare help with their children. Some are going to jobs and have to have a daycare to take their children to. Already, there are 9,000 children on the waiting list. He’s cut after-school programming. He’s talking about freezing pay for health care providers and home workers. These people take care of our elderly. A couple of months ago, it took me two months to get paid. I had to borrow money from my children to buy gas for my car to take the children I care for to and from school. I work. I should not have to borrow money from my children,” Ford said.
Ford said before Rauner took office, “I was getting paid the money I worked for.”
Ford said she and SEIU want Rauner to know “Our children already live in poverty. We need you to stop all of these cuts. It’s hard on all of us in the state of Illinois, but those of us who live in poverty are suffering the most. These cuts are going to force more people to return to the welfare system. That will mean more people will be needed to take in and process all of the applications. I do believe if the rich were to pay their fair share of taxes, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”