EAST PEORIA — Even with a stopgap state budget in place, enough uncertainty persists that the Center for Prevention of Abuse has suspended two programs, one that helps young children and another helping seniors and the disabled.

"The stopgap spending plan has thus far failed to provide the confidence that many human service providers like the center require for their future," executive director Carol Merna said at a news conference Tuesday at EastSide Centre.

The Heart of Illinois Safe from the Start program, which offers therapy to kids from birth through age 5 who have been traumatized by violent situations, hasn't been funded by the state since the end of June 2015.

Officials at the Center for Prevention have funded it out of reserves for the last 13 months to the tune of $120,000, only to discover that it remains unfunded in the new partial-year budget.

"We cannot continue to blindly fund programs once promised by the state of Illinois from our own reserves," Merna said of the work that saw as many as 40 children at a time receiving additional care.

The two staff members performing the work have been reassigned, and children will receive other care through a different program offered by the organization, Merna said.

Indications are that there isn't the "political will" to fund that effort in the second half of the fiscal year, she said.

Also cut for now is a program the state asked Center for Prevention to offer in 2015. The self-neglect service had adult protective services caseworkers investigating and offering aid in instances in which seniors or adults with disabilities who are no longer taking care of themselves or their living conditions.

"We've been taking these cases, but have yet to see reimbursement from the state," Merna said. "And we're not certain we will ever be reimbursed."

The not-for-profit has budgeted $52,000 to handle 30 such cases over the last year; employees have actually tripled that workload, investigating 90.

It's still unclear a month after the stopgap budget's passage whether funding for that program is included, Merna said, indicating that those now receiving assistance will continue to get it, though no new people will be added.

State funding also has been cut to the Center for Prevention's sexual assault program and its family violence intervention program, though its two emergency shelters will continue to receive funding.

"I have said many times in the past year that it's very hard to plan for the future with the lack of knowledge about state funding levels. This rings true even today," Merna said.

Supporters at the news conference included East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus, who described the situation as "scary."

"It moves me that we have little children out there that need services," he said.

The cuts make this year's major fundraiser for the center, its annual duck race, even more critical, Merna said.

"Without a record-setting duck race last year, I'm not sure where the center would be today," Merna said, noting the organization kept all its programs running and didn't turn away anyone seeking services.

Last year it brought in some $175,000 in receipts before expenses for the event were taken into account, providing a "solid foundation" for operations at the center alongside other donations and government support.

The two programs being cut amount to roughly the same amount of money as the fundraiser brings in.

The duck race begins at noon Aug. 27 at EastSide Centre.


Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.