Automatic federal funding cutbacks known as sequestration will end up costing the city of Chicago about $9 million this year, with the largest chunk of that coming out of early childhood education programs, a city official said Friday.
The losses were in federal grant money, with a cut of nearly $6.6 million to Head Start and Early Head Start programs, said Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of Family and Support Services. Her department made that up by cutting administrative costs from its budget of more than $300 million, Diaz said.
“I don’t know that we’ll be able to do that if there’s a second round of sequestration cuts in 2014,” Diaz said during a break in her testimony at City Council hearings on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2014 budget. “It was a bit of a sacrifice, and I don’t know that we’d be able to absorb it again.”
Emanuel has noted frequently in recent weeks that some of the city’s take from newly installed ticket-issuing speed cameras would be used next year to expand early childhood education, even in the face of federal cuts.
The city also lost $1.3 million in federal grant funding for homeless services, Diaz said. The rest of the losses were in the form of grants to alleviate poverty and help the elderly. The city did not cut services in those areas this year, she said.
In anticipation of Congress not finding an alternative to sequestration next year, the department plans to cut $431,000 in funding to six agencies that provide case management services to homeless people staying in shelters, said John Pfeiffer, deputy commissioner of Family and Support Services. It’s hoped that the city can help some of those people in its own service centers, he added.
Pfeiffer also said the department is planning to launch a pilot program to engage people drinking on the street in Uptown “to provide them with more information about available detox and treatment programs, to help them come in off the street, address their substance use problem and (help them) move forward productively. It’s an effort to try to wrap services around them on the street where they are drinking and where they use drugs.”
Ald. James Cappleman, 46th, a former social worker still known to hit the streets himself to try to persuade chronic alcohol and drug abusers to get help, said he pushed for the program. “We have people in this small area who have hundreds of arrests, and arresting them over and over again is not working,” Cappleman said.
He cited the case of one chronic drinker, saying she calls ambulances twice a day. “The cost of that is probably well over $1 million a year, for that individual,” Cappleman said.
“This is where police and social services are working hand in hand together,” Cappleman added. “That has never happened in the city of Chicago to that extent.”
The city also plans to open a new domestic violence shelter, which officials said would be the first in the city in more than a decade. About $1.8 million in funding for the center will come from a court settlement with a strip club over back taxes and legal fees.
Also at the budget hearing, officials from the Board of Election Commissioners announced that all polling places in the city will get new laptop computers to link to city voter data. That will help in many ways, including allowing election judges to redirect voters who show up at the wrong precinct to their voting location, complete with a printed map, said board Chairman Langdon Neal.
And David Reynolds, commissioner of the Fleet and Facilities Management Department, said the city would save $4.4 million next year by ending a lease of space at 33 N. LaSalle St. and moving several major city departments to City Hall and other city-run properties.
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