Budgets cuts could reduce southern Illinois programs

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) - While lawmakers in Washington D.C. battle over the budget many in Heartland watch and hold their breaths. President Obama is calling for deep cuts to community services block grants. That money is used for various anti-poverty initiatives. If the cuts are approved, many in southern Illinois could lose economic and education assistance.

A special occasion co-owner Leslie Lowry pulls another wedding dress for Charline Dvornik to try on. Dvornik says she came to West Frankfort on some friends recommendations. In the mirror, this soon-to-be bride is surprised by the beauty of the gown.

"I love it," Dvornik said. "It's not something I would have picked out for myself but I think they did a great job finding it for me."

Kay Lowry has been helping brides find that perfect dress for years out of her home. But six years ago Lowry asked her daughter and in law, Leslie Lowry, if she'd go into business.

"I was losing my job at Maytag so it just kinda worked out for me to go from one thing to another," Lowry said.

But together they didn't have enough start up money. So Kay Lowry applied for a loan through Crosswalk Community Action Agency. That loan is just one of many programs funded through a Community Services Block Grant. Last year the federal dollars also proved some 60 students with scholarships, and a dozen people with training and a truck driving career.

Under the grant program area residents can apply for emergency services. If approved, the person receives one month worth of rent.

"It's enabling people to remain in their home, to be able to continue to go to work every day," Shelly Pyle, with Crosswalk Community Action Agency said. "It's more about sustainability, not necessarily a hand out."

Pyle says last year they helped 5,700 people thanks to the federal grant. But Pyle says if Obama's cuts become reality, which drops to 3,700, along with, less small business loans. Which Lowry says was pivotal when came to opening their shop.

"There's just not too much business in southern Illinois that could start off without such a program," Lowry said. "The funding is just imperative. I would just hate to see that lost."

Pyle says since 1984 the federal dollars have help to open more than 90 businesses in southern Illinois.

Washington lawmakers have until March 18 to reach an agreement on the budget and avoid a government shut-down.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.