State tax to help rape crisis centers providing scant revenue

When Illinois passed a special tax to support the state’s rape crisis centers in 2013, there was hope it would solve many of the problems the agencies were experiencing from the state funding crisis.

But the returns in the last three years – generating about $500,000 annually for the centers – is far less than anticipated, and victims are finding it increasingly difficult to get the help they need.

“When this first passed, we were hopeful that it might generate revenue in the $1 million to $1.5 million range,” said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

It’s not that the money, derived from a tax on live adult entertainment such as strip clubs, isn’t appreciated, she said. But with cutbacks already being made at the centers due to an already stretched-thin state budget, the money simply isn’t adequate to fill the needs of victims.

She said the recent stopgap bill that restored funding to essential services is a short-term fix and does not address the long-term needs of the victims her agency serves. The agency’s total budget is about $6.5 million.

“We were basically given 12 months of funding for 18 months of services,” she said. “The math still doesn’t add up, and it creates service problems.”

The state budget problems have led to staff cuts, unfilled positions and reduced salaries at the centers, and dramatically increased caseloads. The smaller staffs can mean longer wait times for victims who may need immediate or long-term help in dealing with the aftermath of rape or other crimes of sexual violence.

Poskin said it goes beyond aiding victims, noting that the state’s rape crisis centers also assist the legal system after a crime has been committed.

“We are an integral part of the criminal justice system; and without us, it makes the pursuit of justice more difficult,” she said.

–Illinois News Network

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