State budget cuts affect RACES

By Masaki Sugimoto

In October 2015, the Rape, Advocacy, Counseling, and Education Services first saw the

effects from the continued inaction of the fiscal year 2016 budget from the state.

RACES is part of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault but is funded by both the

state and the government. Because of the failure of the state legislature to pass a

budget, the agency has been forced to make budget cuts.

The first layoffs and reducing of services began in October, and they feared they would

have to close their doors by the end of December; however, the Champaign­Urbana

community and surrounding towns have raised funds to show support for the center.

Jaya Kolisetty, the training coordinator and educator for RACES, is responsible for the

education programs in the sixth through 12th grades and leads crisis intervention

training.

“It is unlikely that the budget will pass this year,” Kolisetty said. “We have funding

through June. All we can do is try to make it to January without state funds, but this will

affect all sorts of resources.”

If RACES were to close, the Illinois Coalition would make the centers that do survive the

budget cuts responsible for those that close their doors.

According to Stephanie Ames, volunteer coordinator and legal advocate for RACES, a

recent ICASA survey expects that seven out of the 29 centers will remain.

“It is a devastation, for the lack of better words,” Ames said.

The current agencies in jeopardy are located in Danville and Springfield. The agency in

Springfield might also close its doors in May, Ames said.

The state budget currently accounts for half of the funding of RACES and currently

owes around $200,000 to the agency. This has led to the cut of many programs, such

as the Child Assault Prevention Program, which focused on educating children in pre-
kindergarten to fifth grade. This was a free service and internship offered by the

University.

Kelly Fritz, senior in LAS, was one of the 14 students who were cut from the program

offered by the Department of Psychology’s community projects courses.

“Our main concern was talking to kids experiencing bad situations,” Fritz said. “We were

not teachers and someone different they could talk to, and we wanted to teach them

about consent.”

Although this was a free program, RACES paid the supervisor of the program. RACES

now has a shortage of educators and legal advocates as well.

On March 17, the Senate passed the SB2059 bill that included services for social

services agencies. The House of Representatives is now reviewing the bill, and

Kolisetty and Ames said they are hopeful that Gov. Bruce Rauner will support the bill.

“We have a staff dedicated to raise funds and have had incredible response through

community and business connections as well as media publicity,” Kolisetty said. “We

are still fighting.”

Malissa Jarosz, junior in Social Work, was part of the social work team that held a

fundraising event for RACES. Over the course of a month, they set up restaurant and

bar contributions. They raised over $5,000 and were the winning team of different

fundraising efforts.

“I took the crisis intervention (the Child Assault Prevention Program) training from

RACES and was passionate about it, but they cancelled the internship,” Jarosz said.

There have been several efforts, on campus and at Parkland College, to raise

awareness of the issue and to raise money for the Social Service.

Ames recommended everyone to call the governor’s office and leave a message about

passing the SB2059 bill, as this will bring awareness that not only is the community in

fact supporting RACES but it is also actively passionate about the issue.

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