4/16/20 - A Message to Providers from Secretary Hou: IDHS Budget & Youth Employment Funding Opportunity

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Dear Stakeholders,

Thank you - our human services first-responders - for the amazing feats you accomplish every day - every minute, every hour. During these very challenging times, a friend reminded me that even as we fight this pandemic - we need to see the silver linings, and so I try to do that in my work and with my family.

One of those silver linings is that I have had the opportunity to see our IDHS team shine and grow in ways we didn't know were in us. Our diverse, talented, and experienced IDHS team has not only risen to, but leaped to, this occasion - to be of service to Illinois. This is reflected in our partners as well.

We can all see the tenacity, passion, and smarts in our community system. We are affirmed that human services shines brightest during the darkest times for people who need us most.

We have tried to keep you abreast of key decisions. We have done a great deal to preserve our system and also to expand in different areas where needed. We have made increases to services for people who experience homelessness, who are victims of domestic violence, who need residential supports, or emergency child care.

I know that the budget pressures on the State are top of mind for all of us. The budget calendar and State revenue are being greatly impacted by COVID-19. IDHS, as always, is working with te Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) and the Governor's Office in this regard. IDHS will load FY21 agreements at the Governor's introduced levels with the understanding that the approved FY21 budget may require adjustments.

To minimize the budget pressures and to maximize the capacity of State dollars, it is important for Illinois and its partners to tap into and leverage federal funding resources in every appropriate way. Illinois was quick to respond to the pressures experienced by our partner organizations, and fortunately, federal funding has become available since then.

Our State's Child Care system responded quickly with technical assistance, webinars, and outreach to help providers access the federal Payment Protection Program, and we hope to learn from their efforts to bring federal dollars in other areas as well.

The footprint of our services has changed dramatically to meet the moment. We made the difficult decision to close lobby access in our local public benefit offices today to promote the health and safety of our staff and customers. But we are still here to serve.

We are available at www.ABE.Illinois.gov through the IDHS Help is Here toll-free line 1-833-2-FIND-HELP - and through urgent call teams for every local office.

IDHS public benefit caseloads are increasing in truly dramatic ways. There has been a 280% increase in new requests for Medicaid or SNAP, and an almost 1000% increase in individuals receiving one benefit who are seeking to add another - mostly Medicaid recipients who now also need food assistance. We ask for your patience during this time, as we build capacity with virtual tools and a workforce adapting to a new mode of operations.

Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude and pride for IDHS staff working in our 24/7 state-operated psychiatric hospitals and developmental centers. Like other first-responders in the healthcare system - they work around-the-clock and are on the front lines of this pandemic.

They are heros and sheros. It is also important to thank the parent and guardian associations and residents and patients in our centers and hospitals across the state for their support during this time.

Thank you for your notes of encouragement and support. They do lift our spirits.

Finally, please take note of the Youth Employment Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) below.

You can find a link to the Youth Employment NOFO here. While IDHS will be extending timelines for NOFO releases in response to COVID-19, we have made the decision to proceed with the posting of the Youth Employment NOFO. The current and emerging needs of young people and their access to employment and training opportunities are critically important and dynamic; we seek to address them through this opportunity. Questions about this NOFO can be directed to: Karrie.Rueter@illinois.gov.

Thank you,

Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS