Op-Ed: Illinois families cannot afford politics right now


July 1, 2015 | Chicago, IL

Celena Roldan-MorenoToday marks the beginning of the new fiscal year, and we are still waiting for Gov. Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly to come to terms on a new budget to fund critically important human services after months of squabbling over contrasting agendas.

This back-and-forth in Springfield is using the most vulnerable among us—children, low-income working families, the elderly, people with disabilities—as political pawns, putting the wellbeing of countless Illinoisans in jeopardy. I believe this is simply unacceptable.

What we are currently witnessing is unprecedented in my tenure at Erie Neighborhood House, a settlement house agency with a rich 145-year history of serving immigrants in the city of Chicago. We’ve entered the new fiscal year without a budget before, but we have always had the reassurance that a resolution would be passed and that services rendered would be funded retroactively. This time, however, that is not the case.

The impact of this stalemate could be devastating for Erie House: We anticipate losing upwards of $250,000 per month in state funding until a budget is passed, affecting as many as 1,000 individuals enrolled in our award-winning programs and services.

Worse yet, some of the most vital Erie House programs endangered by the budget crisis are those addressing the needs of children and youth. Parents rely on our accredited childcare and afterschool programing, which allows them to work, go to school and provide a better life for their families knowing their children are cared for in a safe, nurturing environment. As one single mother whose children attend Erie House programming puts it, losing access to affordable childcare would be devastating.

But the consequences extend far beyond our own community. Beginning today, thousands of individuals across Illinois will lose access to an array of services that contribute to stronger, healthier communities in which they live.

All of this in spite of research suggesting these programs have significant societal and economic impact, neither of which Gov. Rauner and the General Assembly can ignore. An investment today in daycare and afterschool programming will pay tremendous dividends down the road; cutting these services is short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible.

Illinois families cannot afford to let our lawmakers jeopardize their wellbeing any longer. We need a budget in place to fund human services—preferably one that responsibly seeks out new revenue rather than eliminating vital programs and services.

People are at the heart of our mission at Erie Neighborhood House, and we will do our best to make sure their voices are heard in Springfield.

It’s for that reason that we participated in a walkout and rally alongside fellow providers to demand Springfield restore human services today at 10:00 a.m. at the James R. Thompson Center. 

As we have done for the past 145 years, we will keep advocating for the needs of hardworking individuals and families in our communities.


Celena Roldán-Moreno is the executive director at Erie Neighborhood House, a social service agency serving low-income families in Chicago’s West Town, Humboldt Park and Little Village neighborhoods.

Erie Neighborhood House (ENH) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that reaches 18,000 people annually, empowering them to build better lives while strengthening their communities. ENH offers Chicago’s Latinx and diverse low-income residents a range of community-based education programs. With forward-thinking leadership, ENH is committed to continuing its legacy of cost effective, award-winning programming. For more information, please visit

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