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The ended its spring session on May 31, 2011 by approving a state budget that cuts HIV program spending by $1.5 million, or just under 5%. This funding cut, while lower than initially proposed by Governor Pat Quinn, creates significant uncertainty for people living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS.
We are grateful that the General Assembly restored $2 million in HIV funding, said David Ernesto Munar, President/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). A 5% cut is more manageable than the 11% cut that was originally proposed. But over 1,100 people are diagnosed with HIV every year, and Illinois will never stem the tide of new infections if vital prevention and care services continues to be reduced. Total HIV spending will drop from $30.88 million in FY 11 to $29.39 million in FY 12.
AFC thanks Illinois House and Senate budget leaders, including House Human Services Appropriations Chair Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), and House Human Services Appropriations Minority Spokesperson Rep. Rosemary Mulligan (R-Park Ridge) for partially restoring funding for HIV services.
In a move opposed by AFC, the General Assembly also folded four HIV program funding accounts into one. The four accounts that were consolidated are Minority AIDS Prevention ($3.15 m in FY 11), HIV/AIDS Hotline ($355,000 in FY 11), HIV and Corrections ($1.94 m in FY 11), and HIV Medications, Services and Prevention ($25.4 m in FY 11), which also funds the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago remains opposed to the states decision to consolidate budget accounts, continued Munar. Minority HIV prevention, HIV and corrections and the State AIDS Hotline are critical program activities that merit separate dedicated funding allocations. Combining these funding streams risks an anti-HIV portfolio that is less comprehensive or that lacks adequate transparency and accountability measures. We call on the state to maintain a proportional commitment to each of these program areas and full transparency about the array of service activities funded and prioritized next fiscal year.
Governor Quinn can act on the budget bills by signing them into law, vetoing them, or reducing spending on individual budget items. The new fiscal year starts July 1. IDPH has not yet released information on how funding will be allocated between programs.
The overall 5% funding reduction will unquestionably impact the lives of people with HIV noted John Peller, AFCs Vice President of Policy. Earlier this year, IDPH announced that eligibility for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) will be reduced starting July 1.
Because of the state funding cut and other ADAP budget pressure, its unlikely that the cuts will be averted. However, we appreciate efforts by IDPH to explore new and creative solutions to the ADAP crisis such as encouraging individuals to enroll in the Illinois Pre-existing Condition Program, Peller said.
This was certainly a difficult budget year, but it would have been far worse has the state not raised revenues in January, continued Peller. The tax increase provided a necessary jolt of revenue that will allow vital programs to continue.
Illinois still faces a backlog of $6 billion in unpaid bills, and the General Assemblys budget will do little to address this problem. A debt restructuring plan proposed by Sen. John Sullivan (D-Quincy) did not clear the Senate. As a result, social service providers, schools, and others will continue to face delayed state payments. The General Assembly also failed to act on several proposals that would increase revenue without raising taxes.
AFC is significantly concerned about several additional areas that face funding challenges:
In one of several bright spots, supportive housing funding was trimmed by just 1%, although funding was not provided for new programs that are starting in FY 12.
Stay tuned to www.aidschicago.org for updates on the state budget and other policy issues impacting people living with and at risk of HIV.