The Illinois budget crisis has affected a number of operations over the last 15 months. Social services, higher education, and non-profit organizations have all suffered. Now, public transportation is feeling the impacts, including in McDonough County.
GoWest busses, Demand Response vans, and other free public transportation services in McDonough County provide more than 3,000 rides for residents daily. These services are in danger of being cut due to a lack of state funding.
McDonough County Transit Director Nathan Cobb said people in the area use public transportation to get to work, school, and important medical appointments. The elderly and disabled populations rely on the busses for their needs as well.
“If the service had to be cut it would hurt a lot of people in our community,” he said. “A lot of agencies across the state are going through the same thing as we are right now all because of the delays in the state funding.”
About two weeks ago Cobb found out the transit department was not going to get state funds it normally counts on, which is why he is considering contingency plans. He said the department cannot continue to operate at full capacity without the state funding.
According to the Illinois Comptroller’s spokesman Rich Carter, October and November are low revenue months for the state of Illinois. He also said the comptroller’s office currently does not have the funds, nor the authorization to pay public transportation agencies.
“A lot of people are trying to blame us for this, but we have no role really,” Carter said. “I mean we make the payments when we have the funds, and we make the payments when we have the vouchers.”
Cobb, Macomb Mayor Mike Inman, and the Macomb City Council Transit Committee Wednesday to discuss contingency options. Inman said the city is not in a financial situation to provide assistance.
“The city has not got the budget funds to make that partnership whole at the end of the day,” Inman said. “Some of the means by which for this to continue to operate needs to be looked at.”
If they are forced to cut services, Cobb said the cuts would not occur until after Jan. 1. No decisions were made at the meeting. The committee decided to wait 30 to 45 days to monitor the situation before taking any action. In that time Cobb hopes the department will receive a nearly $280,000 federal reimbursement. This would help to continue operating at full force.