News Local/State

Budget Crunch Hits Immigrant And Refugee Services


As lawmakers in Springfield continue to fight over a state budget, service agencies across Illinois are beginning to operate in a reduced capacity.

Thousands of human service agencies won't be receiving money from the state in the near future...including those who serve Illinois' population of immigrants and refugees. 

Last month, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed most of the $36-billion dollar state budget Democrats pushed through the General Assembly in May. Rauner and other Republicans reject that spending plan’s $4 billion dollar hole.

A fraction of those billions — $40,000 — would have gone to The East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. That's about a quarter of the agency's budget, almost all of which goes to translation services.

Co-director Deb Hlavna says without these translation services, immigrants and refugees don't have access to state and federal services like food stamps...or understanding rent contracts.

"The immigrants and the refugees are an overlooked population because they're very quiet and they don't make noise," she said. "Unfortunately, until they become a citizen, they can't vote. I think our governor has made a mistake but he didn't ask me."

State officials are scrambling to find a way to pay bills without a budget…including a temporary short-term budget and court intervention.