Newman Offers Testimony at Speaker's Budget Summit PDF Print E-mail

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GCHA Executive Director, T. Brent Newman

On Monday, February 21, GCHA Executive Director testified at Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's budget summit held at White Oak Elementary in Morris.

Newman spoke to the topic of the proposed consolidation of the Grundy County office of the State Departement of Human Services, and it's impact on residents of the Housing Authority.

Here are his comments in their entirety:

Testimony of T. Brent Newman

Executive Director

 Grundy County Housing Authority

 

Hello, and good evening.  My name is Brent Newman. I am the Executive Director of the Grundy County Housing Authority.  We provide affordable housing opportunities for low- income people in Grundy County.  The vast majority of our residents are seniors and people with disabilities.

 

I listened with great interest to the Governor’s recent budget address.  Primarily because I knew I would be speaking with you here this evening. I believe these hearings have sparked a renewed interest in the budget process by the people of Illinois, and I applaud your efforts, particularly their bipartisan nature.

 

During his address, Governor Blagovich seemed to suggest we either reduce the size and cost of government through major structural reform or allow ourselves to slide back into the old ways of waste, inefficiency, and misplaced priorities.  We can all agree that the efficient provision of government services is certainly an important priority.

 

I encourage you, however, to be careful in the rush to become “more efficient.”  What at first blush may appear to create cost savings in the state’s already strained budget may not actually do so.

 

For instance, we are deeply concerned with the proposal to move the Department of Human Services office out of Grundy County and consolidate it with the office in Yorkville.  It is my understanding that by moving this office, the state will save an immediate $30,000.00 in rental costs for the office.  However, there are other significant economic considerations.

 

  1. Moving the office will place an additional burden on those least able to afford it.

 

    1. Unfortunately, our data suggests that the poor in this county are getting poorer.  The average income of households newly admitted to the Housing Authority during last calendar year actually was $12,047.00 – over $2,000.00 less than our average income for our developments overall.

 

    1. In addition to this decrease in income for our county’s neediest families, the closure of the DHS office places a geographic barrier in the way of these folks who are in desperate need of food stamps, Medicaid, and any of the myriad of programs offered by DHS.  Travel times from southern Grundy County to Yorkville average between 50 minutes and 1 hour.  What is more, there is no current public transportation system to help people access these services should this office move to Kendall County.

 

    1. Clearly, for DHS to provide transportation to these services would be more than the amount of money saved in rent by moving the office. 

 

In the event DHS chooses NOT to provide transportation, and I am not aware that any such plan does in fact exist, we will have created a geographic barrier to services so burdensome, I believe it will be extremely unlikely to be overcome, except in the most dire of circumstances.  The state of our county budget makes it nearly impossible to even consider expanding our existing transportation to include this additional service area.

 

    1. Alternatively, a significant number of the affordable housing units available in Grundy County are within easy distance of the existing Human Services office.  For instance, our Saratoga Tower building is actually within walking distance, even for the seniors and disabled people who live in that building.  Also easily accessible are the homes located at Elliot Manor, another senior high-rise in Morris, and Canterbury Woods apartments, a family complex of affordable housing funded by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.  For those who live in Grundy county, but not in Morris, our county is already able to provide at least some form of public transportation. 

 

So, here is one instance where what might appear on its face to save money, actually will end up costing a lot more to implement.  I’d like to talk to you about another reason why I think this issue is important.

 

  1. It is likely the cost of the move will actually increase costs not only for individuals, or our county, but for other State programs.

 

    1. We believe the additional geographic barrier caused by removing the DHS office from Grundy County will cause those in need of the services to delay participation in the program until they have become desperate for services.  In the case of health care,  this can be particularly expensive for the State.

 

                                                               i.      I believe that like most Illinoisans, the people of Grundy County are proud, and they want to help themselves.  Now, in addition to having overcome the psychological burden of asking for help, we would be asking people to travel even farther to ask for the help they need – help I’m convinced they really wish they didn’t have to have.

 

                                                             ii.      And if you think people aren’t waiting to ask for help, I’ll offer up that average income in our Saratoga Tower building new admissions again -- $12, 047.00.  

 

The baseline for admission to the Grundy County Housing Authority is actually 80% of area median household income.  For a single person that amount is $38, 900.00.  This means that our residents have waited until their incomes have dropped over $25,000.00 below the baseline for admission until they are asking for our help.

 

    1. Now, we all know that the cost of medical treatment far exceeds the cost of medical prevention – I guess my grandma just used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. 

If we make it even harder for people to ask for help, when they really don’t even want to ask for help in the first place, we make it that much more likely that they’re going to wait until they are really very sick to participate in the programs for which they qualify.  That delay in accessing services could far exceed the $30,000.00 saved by consolidating our local DHS office, even if it affects only 2 or 3 patients.

 

Numbers are one thing – and we all need them to be able to effectively do our jobs.  But I think it’s also important that we put this in very real, very tangible human terms. 

 

Every day I go to work I have to walk through the lobby of one of our buildings.  And every one of those days I have to look people in the face and answer their questions.  Sometimes those questions really aren’t a big deal – have I told you my grandson is going to be playing the piano at Church this Sunday?  -- do you think it’s gonna rain?

 

But sometimes those questions are much, much more difficult.  The one that has given me the most trouble recently, and for which I have no definite answer is, “How am I going to be able to get the DHS office so I can keep getting my food stamps?”

 

We are a great State… indeed, a great nation.  And this question bothers me most because we are so great.  I firmly believe that by working together we can make sure that these residents have the food they need to eat, and the healthcare they need to be able to live.  I know we can do this… I just know it.  That’s why I urge you to consider the effect of this particular budget decision.

 

Thank you again for this opportunity to speak.  For your convenience, I’ve prepared written copies of my comments, as well as contact information in the event you’d like to talk more about this issue.

 

Respectfully,

 

 

T. Brent Newman, Executive Director

Grundy County Housing Authority

1700 Newton Place, Morris, IL 60450

815-942-6198 ext. 12

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