SEIU TV, Radio Ad Campaign against Illinois Budget Cuts Questioned

(Springfield, IL) — Political advertisements bashing Illinois’ likely budget cuts to child care and home care services could be backfiring.

The Services Employees International Union for Healthcare in Illinois and Indiana has been placing television and radio advertisements throughout the state, hoping to deter lawmakers from cutting dollars for child care and home care services for the elderly.

“These ads are really about educating the public and educating lawmakers about the importance of these programs and the critical role that they play in providing family support and care for tens of thousands of Illinois families,” said Brynn Seibert, spokeswoman for SEIU Healthcare.

In a recently released SEIU radio advertisement, the organization features a participant of the Illinois Home Service Program saying that even if funding disappears, his disability won’t. In a TV spot, a working couple from Joliet talks about the need for the state’s child care assistance program. The advertisement ends by urging viewers to tell state legislators to avoid cuts to child care.

David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said advocacy groups typically create media campaigns to encourage the public to lobby their lawmakers.

“(But) because it’s so removed from the outcomes, groups are usually reluctant to take that kind of effort, to put those resources in that kind of effort, when it’s much more direct for them to send their lobbyists over to talk to a public official,” Morrison said.

These messages also sometimes lose focus on the bigger picture.

“Advocacy groups are often times providing information in a way that is advantageous to their organization and loses the broader context,” said Philip Habel, a professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, who noted that the effectiveness of advertisements are hard to gauge.

SEIU Healthcare is advocating specifically that the state’s Community Care Program, Childcare Assistance Program and the Home Service Program be fully funded. And the advertisement campaign will play a part in getting that done, Seibert said.

Rank-and-file lawmakers this year are charged with crafting the state budget on a line-item basis. During the past few years, the Legislature approved a lump-sum budget, passing the task of doling out funding to specific programs on to the governor.

Under the Illinois Department on Aging, the Community Care Program each month helps keep about 71,000 elderly residents in their own homes by providing in-home services, such as laundry, grocery shopping, social activities and emergency response services.

The Department on Aging estimates it will need $701.4 million to maintain the program. Both the Childcare Assistance Program and Home  receive $285 million and $787 million, respectively.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, who heads the House budget committee on human services, hadn’t seen all of the commercials, but anticipates “breathtaking” cuts all around.

“We cannot spend more money than we have in revenue,” Feigenholtz said. “We need to see data. We need to know that the money that we’re spending is money well spent and that there’s an established goal and those goals are being met.”

However, a lead Senate member charged with crafting the human services budget paints a vastly different picture.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said that chamber most likely will be increasing funds for community care programs and keeping child care funding level.

“I like everything that helps keep pressure on us to maintain these critical services. I think they’re helpful,” Steans said. “I’m hoping we can continue to keep services that are critical to low- and working-income families and … for our elderly.”

State Rep. Patricia Bellock, R-Westmont, said she appreciates the message behind the advertisements, but said advocacy groups shouldn’t be surprised if they see cuts.

“Remember lots of times when they go into the new budget, there are increases in there. You may just be cutting them from what they appropriated above the last year’s line item. Can they exist on what they had last year?” Bellock said.

Melissa Leu, Illinois Statehouse News

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3 Comments on “SEIU TV, Radio Ad Campaign against Illinois Budget Cuts Questioned”

  1. Christina Kinkade Says:

    I understand what poople are going through with the economy, but when I watch the commercial about all this, it enrages me. Why? because they have a beautiful house but yet want the government to help them? They get free help but yet they have this huge house? Something is wrong with that picture!!!

  2. Brent Wise Says:

    I agree Christina. We all make choices in life. Why should I pay for childcare because of the choices others have made. The couple in that SEIU propaganda video chose to have kids, chose the house they live in, chose the car or cars they drive. They make choices everyday on what to do with their money. I would rather see our State fund education on money managment than contiue to give handouts.

    • Marge Berglind Says:

      The same argument can be applied to the property taxes paid to public schools by homeowners with no children. Why should they pay for the education of children because of the choice of others?

      We pay for public services that are used by some but not all in society because there is a greater public benefit derived, for example, when children and cared for and educated. We all win.

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