East St. Louis parks littered with garbage, swimming pools without water, critical programs such as Meals on Wheels cut for seniors and summer camp programs no longer available for children are among the many tragic consequences of years of fiscal mismanagement by the state.
The East St. Louis images are evoking an emotional response on social media this week in an alarming series of videos commissioned by AARP-Illinois to demonstrate the urgent need for the Illinois General Assembly to pass a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2020 and improve the ongoing fiscal crisis.
“These children sometimes only eat what they are fed here. The cuts that we’re going through right now, our parks are not getting cut and cleaned like they should because I cannot afford to bring back my four maintenance staff. We’re barely making it,” said Irma Golliday, Executive Director for East St. Louis Park District. “I don’t understand -- and it sort of gets a little hard when you think about it, how the state can actually cut funds here in East St. Louis.”
AARP-Illinois, a non-profit, non-partisan organization with 1.7 million members across the state, developed the East St. Louis videos as part of its continuing “Enough is Enough” campaign, which calls on Illinois politicians to make fixing the state’s finances their number one priority.
The 30-second videos include:
- Interviews with an East St. Louis woman who fell behind on her bills and property taxes after being laid off from a government job due to budget shortfalls. Without a local unemployment office, she and her husband lost her home. While she is now working, the couple must take turns buying essential medication each month because their income isn’t enough to treat both.
- Scenes from the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, which has seen its senior programs dwindle from 19 a few years ago to 6, including a drastic scale back of the Meals on Wheels program.
- Images of East St. Louis tennis courts littered with garbage bags, as park district officials lament a 75 reduction in summer programming and 50% reduction in staff because of the lack of state funding.
“Our seniors are being neglected out here. We see it, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” said TraVonn Jones, Job Developer for the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House.
Illinois currently faces, depending on the day, a $6-$8 billion unpaid bill deficit; $1.7 billion in unfunded liabilities; and according to the Comptroller’s report of April 30, 2019 an estimated $1.8 billion in pending liabilities that have not yet been invoiced. As a result of the unpaid bill backlog, Illinois has, so far this year, incurred over $440 million in late payment interest penalties.
AARP Illinois demands that action must be taken now to pass a balanced FY 20 budget that will improve, rather than worsen, the Illinois fiscal crisis. Permanent long-term solutions, such as passing a Fair Tax, must also be implemented that will help restore Illinois’ fiscal health, provide the services our population needs, and ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
"Every day, Illinoisans continue to suffer daily from the harm the fiscal crisis has inflicted on them,” said Bob Gallo, State Director for AARP Illinois. “Their suffering must end.”
To learn more about Enough is Enough, visit: http://enoughisenough.aarp.org
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities.