- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois women who rely on state services are among those most affected by the nearly yearlong state budget impasse.

Nonprofit organizations that deliver state-subsidized help to struggling mothers and their children, as well as victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, have been frozen out of the haphazard funding system that’s emerged during the stalemate, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/1rtB9Gp ) reported.

“It’s hitting women and children disproportionally hard and in ways that lots of us are still trying to get a grasp on,” said Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago, who chairs the human services committee. “It’s across the board. It’s really sad.”

Women make up about 66 percent of the recipients of an underfunded state scholarship grant for low-income college students. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission says between 80,000 and 128,000 female students received Monetary Award Program money last year. Most schools had to pay for the scholarships and when state funding was released in April it was for one semester. It’s unclear what schools will do in the fall.

“It’s discouraging,” recipient Kayla Gubov said. “I am lucky that I got into a school outside of Illinois, but that was never in my original plan.”

Women also are the individuals seeking support through programs that have completely lost state funding, including intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, home visits for teen parents and prenatal and family care management for at-risk mothers.

Low-income women seeking screenings for breast and ovarian cancer have been put on long waiting lists unless they’re already displaying symptoms. It usually gets $13 million in state money but without a state budget it’s operating with about $6 million in federal funds. The state is supposed to match that federal money but hasn’t yet. That means agencies have had to cut the number of hours they offer screenings and use a “priority list” to see women who are displaying symptoms.

“It’s scary,” said Heather Eagleton, director of public policy and government relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “The longer you wait, the cancer can progress to a much later stage, and in turn it becomes more difficult and more expensive to treat. Just because you cut the program, it doesn’t mean you are going to get rid of cancer.”

Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the state’s 29 rape crisis centers are “operating at bare bones,” making it traumatizing for victims who ask for assistance and are told they’re on a wait list.

Social service providers argue that every day that goes by without a state funding causes damage to the social service network and the people it serves.

“Women’s lives are being sacrificed to the budget,” said Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force executive director Anne Marie Murphy.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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