On May 11, the Salvation Army sent a delegation of officers and staff from across the state to meet with state legislators and Gov. Rauner to raise awareness about how the 11-month-long budget stalemate has increased human needs, negatively impacted those whom we serve and stretched our resources nearly to a challenging point. We also went to Springfield to voice our support for a resolution to end this impasse.
Our mission is to meet human needs without discrimination. The greatest limitation to our capacity to serve is the resources available for us to do so.
The General Assembly has acted and now the governor must do the same, as the current lack of state reimbursement dollars will not allow us to sustain these services at our present levels for much longer. While Senate Bill 2038, the recent emergency payment location, may meet a fraction of those needs on a temporary basis, other critical services will continue to go unfunded. People in desperate need cannot wait, but we hope the state legislature and governor will proactively continue to address the need for a sound, balanced budget.
This hope for a larger agreement must also be coupled with the reality that it may not happen soon enough. While we wait, vulnerable people in need continue to pay a heavy price. The Salvation Army is the largest provider of social services worldwide and one of the largest in Illinois. We have relied on our emergency reserves so far to meet the ever-increasing needs and absence of state funding, but we are not able to do this on a continual basis.
Many other nonprofits have already resorted to cutting staff, reducing or eliminating programs, even closing their doors. The people they used to serve are now joining the lines for our food trucks, visiting our pantries, and seeking our help with substance abuse treatment. Not only are more people than ever before seeking our help, their needs are more complex and acute, including many who are suffering from mental illness. The Salvation Army has also tightened its belt with reducing cost of operations while also raising a record amount from generous friends and supporters. Unfortunately, this is still not enough to compensate for the drastic delays in reimbursement.
Faith-based organizations like The Salvation Army play a critical role in the safety net for everyone in need across Illinois. We are also responsible stewards of the private donations entrusted to us to “Do The Most Good.” However, government also has an obligation to do its part and be a responsible steward of the people, as the gap between the available private donations and the cost of providing services continues to widen.
We beseech Gov. Rauner and the General Assembly to work together in good conscience and faith, to act now on this emergency legislation and move forward, in order to pass a sound and balanced budget that restores funding for human services and helps to stabilize those most in need.
Maj. Phillip Aho is the general secretary of The Salvation Army Midland Division, St. Louis.