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HIV/AIDS services survive Quinn's cut
by Sam Worley

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State funding for HIV services will remain nearly fully funded under the terms of the Governor's Allocation Plan for the new fiscal year state budget. The FY10 budget, which was passed two weeks into the beginning of the fiscal year on July 15, included $3.4 billion in unallocated funds to be spent at Gov. Pat Quinn's discretion.

Though the budget itself only funded HIV/AIDS agencies and other social services at 50 percent of previous levels, service providers had been waiting anxiously to find out where Quinn would put the discretionary funds.

Under the plan released July 31, Quinn allocated $40 million to the Illinois Department of Public Health, $17 million of which is to be spent on HIV/AIDS programming. In combination with the money already allocated in the state budget, this restores HIV/AIDS funding to 97.4 percent of previous levels.

Mark Ishaug, president/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) , said, "We are enormously grateful to Gov. Quinn for ensuring essential HIV/AIDS services continue, despite these difficult economic times.

"The governor's decision ensures that HIV prevention and care services for people living with and at risk of HIV will continue largely uninterrupted."

Ishaug and the AFC led a fight in June over the threat of drastic social services spending cuts.

HIV/AIDS funding notwithstanding, the plan released Friday pointed to about $1.4 billion in unmet needs, of which the state has no strategy for funding. And other social-service providers, such as substance-abuse prevention agencies, experienced deep cuts in their funding.

Indeed, the FY10 budget relies heavily on borrowing money to pay the state's bills, and has been criticized for offering no sustainable solution to the state's seemingly endless cycle of budget crises. The governor's plan also notes that the budget doesn't include funds to pay down $3.9 billion in money that the state owes—much of it to small non-profits such as HIV/AIDS service providers.

AFC's John Peller pointed out that if the state continues on its current course, the budget deficit is expected to reach $10 billion by next year. "At this point," he said, "lawmakers must entertain mechanisms to increase the state's tax base in ways that protect Illinois' most vulnerable, low-income residents."

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