A statewide coalition of HIV/AIDS organizations, most of whom primarily serve persons of color, is continuing with its efforts to receive allocations they had been awarded through the state's appropriation process.
The Service Provider Improvement Network ( SPIN ) last week issued a press release that outlined their purpose. According to their statement, "Community-based organizations and advocates from across Illinois have come together to ask the legislature to fix this devastating funding mishap related to the African American ( HIV/ )AIDS Response Act."
Members of the coalition, not all of whom were financially affected by the situation, include Affinity Community Services; AIDS Foundation of Chicago; BMX Chicago; Brothers Health Collective; Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus; Chicago Recovery Alliance; Chicago Women's AIDS Project; The Community Wellness Project; Community Health & Education, Inc.; East Side Health District; Making A Daily Effort ( M.A.D.E. ); Men and Women in Prison Ministries; Proactive Community Services; Project VIDA; South Side Help Center; Task Force Prevention and Community Services; and Writers Planners Trainers, Inc.
Grants were awarded to 18 agencies for fiscal year 2015 by Illinois Department of Public Health ( IDPH ), but in July grantees were notified by IDPH that the funds would not be available. The agency offered little explanation for the change, only saying that the General Assembly did not replenish the fund in order for them to follow through with their allocations. But State Rep. Greg Harris, chairman of the House Appropriations — Human Services Committee, has said that IDPH did not specify a revenue source from which the funds could be provided.
No matter the reason for the funding problem, many organizations now face serious problems.
"Losing these funds has disrupted our entire outreach strategy for targeting the highest risk populations," said Rosalyn Ross of East Side Health District, located in East St. Louis, in the SPIN statement. "We've lost three employees that were fully trained and capable to meet the objectives that we proposed."
Agencies in St. Clair County, where East St. Louis is located, were hit especially hard. That area has the second highest rate of incidences outside Cook County.
Calvin Spinks, who heads up the Chicago chapter of Black Men's Xchange, previously told Windy City Times that he'll likely have to close down his agency: "That money was my entire budget. I am exploring other grant options, and using my personal money, and I let my contractors go. But if nothing comes through in the next few months, I'm going to have to close my doors."
"This type of error severely threatens the public health infrastructure for addressing HIV/AIDS that we have worked very hard to build over the past 30 years," said Rev. Doris Green of Men and Women in Prisons Ministries in the SPIN statement.
Activist Keith Green said that the coalition has for the time being focused on getting IDPH to make the allocations through its supplemental budget, rather than writing and lobbying for new legislation that would need approval by the General Assembly, as the group had originally planned.
"If we went the legislative route, those funds would technically by 'new money,' which would be difficult to have approved," said Green. He added that another priority of the coalition would be working for a more transparent and user-friendly allocation process at IDPH.
"It would be nice if our agencies did not have to shift our priorities every time IDPH shifts theirs," he said.
John Peller, interim President/CEO of AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said that the affected organizations, though small, often leave large footprints in their communities. "They have deep ties and have credibility with local residents, but they don't have the resources to quickly pull themselves back up if funding falls through."
AFC was not affected by the rescinded funding, but has joined with the coalition, he added. "We were part of the coalition that lobbied for the Act in 2005it is incredibly disappointing to see that this funding was not available."