Executive Director, Centro Romero
I care deeply about our community and so does my staff, that is why we do the work we do at Centro Romero. For years we have provided life changing services to immigrant and refugee families on Chicago’s northeast side. We provide families with the tools and resources that they need to succeed, such as English and GED classes. Last fiscal year, we helped 547 people through the process of becoming a US citizen. We connected over 1,000 families to food assistance programs so they are able to send their children to school well fed and ready to learn.
All of our programs provide increased upward mobility for our clients, which generates a large economic benefit to the state. In exchange, the state of Illinois has historically funded 50% of our work. The state’s failure to pay social services agencies like ours is having dire consequences for my staff, the community we serve, and the infrastructure we have worked so hard to build.
We have had to lay off entire departments, including 15 GED and ESL teachers, all of whom were passionate and experienced educators. In August, our head of legal services, Jose Ventura, had to lay off two of his staff and furlough the rest of the department (including himself). These staff reductions have meant that we are not able to provide the services that our community needs. Every month the budget crisis continues without resolution, means hundreds of our children going to school hungry, parents not getting the english class that would have helped them secure a higher paying job, and families left vulnerable to separation through deportation due to lack of citizenship.
It is outrageous that at the same time that the state is refusing to pay us for these vital services, they continue to pay the bank industry every month on time and in full. We don’t have the lobbyists and political clout of big banks like Chase or Bank of America. If the budget impasse means the state is forced to choose between paying social service agencies like Centro Romero or further padding the profits of Wall Street banks, it is clear to me who our legislators should choose.
Time to Get Our Money Back
Wall Street banks suckered the State of Illinois into risky financial deals that they said would us money. But instead of saving money the opposite happened. Since the financial crash, these financial deals have cost Illinois taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, while our state cuts vital services needed to keep our communities healthy and safe.
In other parts of the country these bad deals have been renegotiated but in Illinois politicians have refused to go after Wall Street banks. Instead Governor Rauner has chosen to cut from childcare, domestic violence, homeless shelters, and other vital services.