Alexander Co. hit hard by IL budget stalemate - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Alexander Co. hit hard by IL budget stalemate


At Southern Seven Health Department in Cairo, Illinois, Wednesday is the only day it’s been open this week.

It’s been this way for the nearly two months because there still isn’t an agreement on the state’s budget.

“We’ve never experienced anything like this severe,” Director of Public Health at Southern Seven, Nancy Holt said.

Holt says the health department relied on reserve funds in July and August, but by mid-September, the department had to lay off 30 employees because there wasn’t any grant money being received from the state, going from being open five days a week, to just one.

“Working in public health, there’s never been a lot of money. But you find ways to get things done, but in this crisis there doesn’t seem a way to fix this.” Holt said.

New mom, Debra Beasley, is a part of the WIC program.

“A lot of people depend on the WIC program to get a lot of stuff they need, and from being open all week to now just once a week, it’s kind of hard to figure out how to get here, when’s the best time to get here. And whether or not it’s going to be open for much longer at all," Beasley said.

Starting next week, Holt said the department will be open three days a week because it recently received federal dollars, enabling some employees to come back.

But Holt says still half of the department’s employees are gone, leaving a long road ahead.

“Health departments are suffering, rural health departments especially. We need them to work together to get a budget,” Holt said.

Also affected is the sheriff's department, which lost half its deputies and all of its dispatchers nearly five weeks ago.

Sheriff Tim Brown says it's a scary and stressful time for him and the four deputies he has left. He also says it's taking longer to get to calls - and no one's really got their back if they need help.

The Illinois State Police have been helping, but they can only do so much.

Some residents in Alexander County expressed their safety concerns.

"You don't know who's going to come to your house and break in and shoot in your house you know that's the only thing I can say we need help,” Cairo resident, JD Snowden said.

"Yeah I'm scared for my safety. I'm scared for everybody's safety, the older folks especially," Cairo resident Barbara Austin said. "They can't get out and get about. And there are a lot of things going on loitering. You know what are we supposed to do when they're laying off the police? What is we supposed to do here?

The budget stalemate isn’t only impacting the Alexander County sheriff’s department and health department, but as it gets closer to winter, cleaning off roadways could take longer than expected.

“The biggest thing is we’re deferring buying any salt right now waiting to see what the budget will do, so we’re not going to be doing as good of job getting the snow and ice off,” engineer for the Alexander County Highway Dept., Jeff Denny said.

The Alexander County Highway department mentioned it’s going to take a little longer this winter to get the snow and ice off.

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