Vermilion County agency must cut workers, programs

DANVILLE – Effective today, 21 employees at the Center for Children's Services have been laid off and two programs serving young families with children have been temporarily eliminated because the state has not sent the center funding that's owed.

Ed Michaels, executive director of the nonprofit organization, said several of the major state-funded programs the center runs have not received any state revenue since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

"We've carried programs for the state for six months without any dollars from the state for activities they've contracted with us to provide. That takes its toll," said Michaels, who had to inform 21 of the center's 86 part-time and full-time staff in the last several days that they would not have a job after Jan. 1.

"We decided we needed to take more significant, drastic measures to remain open and meet the mission of our organization, which is helping children and families," Michaels said.

A majority of the 21 layoffs were employees connected with two programs that have received no funding since July, and the rest of the layoffs were in various positions throughout the center, Michaels said.

Suspended indefinitely at the center is the "Good Beginnings" program, which is funded by a nonprofit, private organization called Ounce of Prevention, which has not received any of the state money it's owed. Through that program, staff at the center went into the homes of pregnant teenagers to work with the mothers and fathers.

Also eliminated is "Believing in Beginnings," another home-visiting program that works with young parents with children who are at risk for various difficulties and links them with other services.

Michaels said he hopes to resume both programs once state funding is received.

But Michaels and other officials at local and state social service agencies suffering in the current fiscal crisis do not know when relief will come.

The center has been struggling with late or nonexistent state payments for months, but Michaels said state officials informed the center within the last few weeks that even those funds that had been slow but still coming probably will be dried up altogether for a while.

"We were further told that this was likely to continue for several months," he said. "One does keep hearing April come up as a time frame when there might be some relief, but it's the challenge of every nonprofit funded by the state of Illinois to find a way to last until then – until they turn on the faucet they've turned off."

Michaels said the center has tried to make cuts that make the least impact on services provided, but also must make enough cuts to ensure survival.

"So this has been a very painful and difficult series of decisions, but we are committed to thriving and surviving," said Michaels, who added that this will be one of the center's all-time biggest challenges in its more than 150-year history in the community. "I think if we are very prudent and watchful of our resources that we can continue to be in operation until that time, but keep in mind, April is speculative, and we don't really know when the state is going to bring the necessary resolve to this problem."

Michaels said he and other agencies funded by the state will continue to press their case with people at the state level with authority and influence, and he continues to have numerous meetings with state officials about the crisis.

"There are vigorous advocacy efforts continuing," he said. "We will not rest until we get the attention of those in power that can make a difference. We will not sit idly by and see our clients suffer and not have the resources they so desperately need."

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