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Senate committee hears testimony on impact of cuts

State Sen. Daniel Biss (left) and Neal Waltmire of the Responsible Budget Coalition talked to reporters Tuesday morning before an Illinois Senate committee meeting in Chicago. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

In July, the Evanston-based Connections for the Homeless — knowing cuts were on the way — closed a drop-in center where the homeless came for a shower, food or perhaps to meet with a counselor.

“It is still having a long-term impact because that drop-in center is where we were able to engage people who needed our services the most,” explained Connections’ Acting Executive Director Sue Loellbach. The homeless people who came to the Evanston facility “built trust with us and would actually begin to acquire services to move out of homelessness.”

Loellbach was one of several social service agency heads who came to tell the Illinois Senate Human Services Committee Tuesday about the impact of the on-going budget impasse on the homeless, needy children, battered women and many other disadvantaged groups.

Loellbach testified at the committee’s hearing, held downtown in the Bilandic Building. She is part of the Responsible Budget Coalition, a group of some 200 organizations fighting against cuts for vital services and for generating revenue to save those services.

“Legislators need to know there’s a choice: They can choose to restore some or all of the [state] income tax over cuts to early intervention. They can choose to close corporate loopholes in order to prevent domestic violence from not getting the services they need.” said Neal Waltmire, a spokesman for the coalition.

State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, chairman of the Human Services Committee, said he hoped the hearing would help educate the public about the true impact of the state’s financial crisis.

“Our state is operating in a manner that does not make sense, is not consistent with basic principles of sound government and that brokenness has consequences,” Biss said.

He added: “We are viciously and cruelly putting the most vulnerable people in Illinois in a situation where they are bearing brunt of the harm.”