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Our View: Illinois’ nonprofits feel the pain

Updated: January 7, 2013 7:18AM



This industry constitutes 8.7 percent of the payrolls in Illinois. It contributes $459 million to the state’s wallet and $2.3 billion to Uncle Sam. It employs about 517,000, making it the state’s fourth-largest employer.

What is it? It’s not heavy industry. Or construction. It’s not the food industry or agriculture. It’s not education, transportation, banking or real estate. Give up?

The fact that you cannot decipher the riddle tells something about the burdens faced by nonprofit organizations in Illinois. They are the important social servants that make sure the state’s seniors, children, poor and disabled don’t fall through the safety net that seems to look less safe every day.

The state’s gross mismanagement of its finances, with perpetually unpaid bills, hits these agencies the hardest and hurts, by extension, our fellow citizens who are most vulnerable.

Legislators might not have been fully aware of the damage their budget buffoonery has caused because until recently the scope and depth of the nonprofits and their role in state finances was dimly understood. That excuse no longer applies after Johns Hopkins University studied the organizations for Donors Forum, an association of grant makers and nonprofits.

Take, for example, SouthSTAR Services, a 62-year-old agency based in Chicago Heights that serves the disabled in south Cook County and eastern Will County. The state has not provided $1.4 million it had budgeted for the agency, meaning SouthSTAR is cutting programs and jobs and adding debt to keep the doors open.

SouthSTAR is far from alone. The state owes roughly $1 billion to nonprofits, forcing them to cut what for many of their clients are vital services. What a sad commentary on the political leadership of this state.

The Legislature should create a caucus on nonprofit groups to ensure that lawmakers are aware of the problems. And it should place these organizations higher on its priority list in light of their critical role, one that transcends money and enriches the state every day. Placing greater hardship on them is not only callous but morally bankrupt.



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