Despite the fact that Illinois is ranked 51st in the nation in terms of money allocated toward social services, according to a 2008 University of Colorado study, the state’s General Assembly recently proposed a budget cut that would severely slash the amount of money provided to social services.

The “50 percent budget,” as it has been dubbed by administration officials to Gov. Pat Quinn, would leave many of society’s most vulnerable members out in the cold.

The general assembly’s current proposal cuts $9.2 billion in funding to many of the state’s vital services. This translates to a $5 billion cut in community-provided services and a $4.2 billion reduction in state-provided services.

As an alternative to the suggested cuts, Quinn has proposed an income tax hike to 4.5 percent to compensate for the state’s 2009 fiscal year deficit, which is estimated to be anywhere between $8 billion and $12 billion.

However, should the proposed legislation take effect on July 1 – the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year – many local social service organizations, and those throughout the state, will be forced to reduce employment and do away with many of their provided services.

In response to the impending cuts, social service agencies such as Seguin Services and Community Support Services are planning “vigils” to highlight what they consider an impending crisis.

Seguin President John Voit and other Seguin team members will be holding a “Vigil of Hope and Prayer” from June 25 at 10 a.m. to June 30 at midnight outside of their offices at 3100 S. Central Ave., in Cicero.

Meanwhile, Community Support Services is hosting a week-long vigil from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day through Friday, June 26, at its headquarters at 9021 Ogden Ave. in Brookfield.

They are hoping state legislatures will come up with an alternative to their current solution for the state’s budget deficit.

Seguin Services, a non-profit organization in Cicero, serves children and adults with developmental disabilities. The organization trains foster parents to care for children with severe mental, behavioral and medical disabilities and also offers opportunities for parents to adopt. Seguin also provides several housing, training and employment opportunities for adults.

The organization operates over 60 group homes for adults with disabilities in the Chicago suburbs, including Riverside and Brookfield.

Some $340,000 has already been revoked from Seguin’s supported employment program, one that put hundreds of people to work. Seguin is facing nearly a 50-percent reduction in state funding.

“Our ability to serve is in serious jeopardy,” said James S. Haptonstahl, Seguin Foundation senior vice president, suggesting that “such a compromise would make us close our doors.”

The cuts would also drastically affect services provided by Brookfield-based Community Support Services (CSS), which aids the developmentally disabled.

According to Mary Lazarikos, marketing communications manager for the agency, the state budget cuts would devastate services.

If the cuts go through, CSS would lose $900,000 in annual funding. Lazarikos said the cuts would mean a 75 percent reduction in “respite” services, where staff members visit homes and watch after individuals or groups to allow caregivers a break.

Eighty percent of CSS’ family support case management would be cut, and its ability to operate six group homes, including one in Brookfield, would be cut completely. In all, half of the organization’s clients would be cut off from receiving services, Lazarikos said.

Helping Hand Rehabilitation Center in Countryside, another organization which assists people with disabilities to achieve independent lives, will lose $250,000 in grant funding and will see a 30- to 40-percent loss in their fee-for-funding service, where the state provides funding for individuals in need of service, allowing them to select the agency that best suits their needs. This is equivalent to a loss of roughly $2 million and some 80 full-time direct service personnel and half the existing service personnel.

Pillars, which has locations in Berwyn, Oak Park and Western Springs, in addition to other centers scattered about Chicagoland, is another non-profit organization that could be severely affected by the legislation.

Providing an array of social programs from child and adolescent services to adult services to crisis counseling, early childhood programming, domestic violence service and advocacy, sexual assault counseling, transitional housing and bilingual and bicultural services, Pillars is an organization whose mission is rooted in providing assistance to obtain sound mental health and work with those who suffer from mental disabilities.

In 2008-09 Pillars also provided part-time substance/alcohol abuse counseling for students at Riverside-Brookfield High School.

Pillars receives $2.7 million annually from the state and could experience a 46-percent cut in its overall funding. This means that Pillars will no longer be able to treat those without health insurance or Medicaid, leaving the poor, working class population, who make up a sizable portion of their clientele, to fend for themselves. Pillars provides services to over 10,000 people.

John Shustitzky, president and CEO of Pillars expressed grave concern with the organization’s ability to operate in its current fashion.

“We’ll have to implement a plan to live within the cuts,” Shustitzky said.

Bob Uphues contributed to this report.