Illinois' human service providers are still struggling. But one company says it's trying to make things a bit easier.
Help at Home CEO Ron Ford says Illinois' lack of a state budget and late payments have caused a seismic shift in Illinois’ social service safety net over the past year.
“I can think of a half-dozen providers, some of which were very large (and) very good agencies, which have closed their doors,” Ford said.
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Illinois was looking at the possibility that no one would be left to care for the thousands of sick, elderly or disabled people who depend on the state. But Ford said he decided to expand his company.
Since 2015, Ford and Help at Home have hired dozens of people who used to work for other human service providers. Ford is proud to say he's paying almost all of them more.
Sadie Shines is one such worker. She worked at Lutheran Social Services until the organization let her go. “It brought about tears” Shines said of losing her job at Lutheran Social Services. “Not only thinking about me, but also the workers who depend on the job.” And the clients who depend on the state.
Shines said it's sad people in Illinois are really suffering because state lawmakers can't agree on a budget. “What's going on down in Springfield seems like it's a battle among themselves,” Shines said. “And it's hurting the seniors and the workers who do the job.”
Ford said it's not cheap or easy to be a human service provider in Illinois. “The state of Illinois owes Help at Home approximately $90 million,” Ford said.
Ford said the company has a good business plan. Help at Home also works with more than a half dozen states in the Midwest and Southeast.
Ford said his company can survive because it is large enough. He said he hopes Illinois’ fiscal woes won't force the small nonprofits that have been working in the state for years out of business.