2021 AFC State Budget Address Statement
Standing at the site of a former makeshift hospital on the Illinois State Fairgrounds used to treat those afflicted with the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker delivered an unconventional — and virtual — State of the State and Budget Address on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Speaking in a room used to administer COVID-19 vaccines and with a “new appreciation for fullness of life,” Governor Pritzker outlined his vision for the state moving forward post-pandemic, as well as the tough choices “that must be made to balance our state budget amid economic hardship for everyday Illinoisans.”
In his Fiscal Year 2022 [FY22] budget, Governor Pritzker outlined several priorities including $750,000 in new state funding for a suicide prevention, education and treatment program. Other priorities include the full funding of the Home Services Program with an allocation of an additional $56 million and a dedicated $25 million for the Eviction Mitigation program that will keep Illinoisans facing eviction in their homes. The governor also highlighted that his proposed budget would spend $1.8 billion less than Fiscal Year 2021 [FY21] and reflects $400 million in additional cuts to appropriations, a hiring freeze and the closure of “corporate loopholes” that should net an additional $932 million to the state’s General Fund. Finally, Governor Pritzker noted that the state’s economic recovery is tied directly to the recovery from COVID-19, and that his proposed FY22 budget “reduces spending to meet the projected revenues.”
While AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) understands the state’s precarious fiscal outlook, we are, however, disappointed that the governor’s FY22 proposed budget does not prioritize funding to address the racial health disparities experienced by people living with or vulnerable to HIV. Additionally, the governor’s budget does not support the investment needed to assist the communities disproportionately impacted by HIV and COVID-19: Black, Latinx, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ populations. Specific to health and human services, the governor’s FY22 proposed budget flat-funds most HIV-related programs when compared to FY21:
AFC’s President/CEO John Peller shared hopes for increased funding to address the state’s HIV-related funding needs: “We are committed to partnering with the legislature to advocate for additional HIV funding to fulfill the goals and priorities of the Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. As currently written, the governor’s proposed budget lacks the investment of additional resources necessary to continue the work of ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois. We look forward to continued conversations with the governor’s office and members of the Illinois General Assembly to ensure that making short and long-term investments in HIV testing, prevention and PrEP, and treatment is valued as a top priority.”
AFC pledges to work with legislators and advocates over the coming weeks and months to advocate for a $2 million increase in the HIV Lump Sum and a $15 million increase for HIV funding focused specifically for Black communities. In addition, AFC will advocate for $900,000 in new funding to be prioritized in the state budget to address the growing rates of STI diagnoses (chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis).
Finally, AFC supports the governor’s efforts to close corporate loopholes and decouple the state from federal tax policy passed in the CARES Act that would take at least $500 million in revenue from the state’s General Fund. We also believe that passing common sense solutions to add much-needed revenue to the state’s bottom line is a necessity if we are to reverse the state’s fiscal woes. As a member of the Responsible Budget Coalition, AFC looks forward to working with Governor Pritzker, members of the Illinois General Assembly and coalition partners to enact reforms that will put Illinois back on the right financial footing.
In closing, we realize that we cannot and do not do this work alone. Community advocates using their voices and sharing their stories play a vital role in AFC’s continued advocacy to protect people living with or vulnerable to HIV. To that end, AFC urges advocates from across Illinois to participate in this year’s virtual Advocacy Week that will be held from Monday, April 19 through Friday, April 23, 2021! This will be a terrific opportunity for advocates to #ActivatePowerIL and advance health equity for the most vulnerable in our communities. For more information or to register, please visit our Advocacy Center here!