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Maria Garcia, of unincorporated Leyden Township, works at a Tribune Publishingplant where she inserts advertising packets into newspapers.
Her husband, Rodolfo, installs granite countertops for a living. He makes more money than Maria, but there isn't much to spare with a $1,300 a month mortgage and seven children.
The Garcias, who emigrated from Mexico, have permanent residency status — also known as a "green card" — but would like to become U.S. citizens. "I think if I become a citizen, the pay would be better," Maria, through an interpreter, told the Pioneer Press, which is owned by Tribune Publishing.
To prepare for the test, the Garcias are taking citizenship classes at the West Suburban Action Project, a nonprofit headquartered in Melrose Park that works with immigrant populations in western Cook County. The classes are currently free.
Those citizenship classes could become unaffordable, however, if new Gov. Bruce Rauner gets his way. In February, Rauner proposed a variety of cuts to the state budget. Among them are reductions to the Illinois Department of Human Services, which partially pays for the citizenship classes. The West Suburban Action Project says it would start charging for its classes on a sliding scale if Rauner's budget cuts take.
Rauner has also proposed cuts to Medicaid reimbursement, higher education, and the Department of Children and Family Services.
"The [proposed cuts] would have a huge impact on low-income families that are already struggling," said Yesenia Sanchez, executive director of West Suburban Action Project.
Ralph Martire agrees. Martire is director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a nonpartisan nonprofit entity that studies state budget issues.
"The [proposed cuts] disproportionately impact low-income and vulnerable populations," Martire said.
It's not just about citizenship classes. Among other cuts Rauner has proposed that the state no longer pay relatives — a grandmother, an aunt, etc. — to take care of children of single working parents.
"When you stop funding them, you have to replace them with someone who is certified, which is four to five times the reimbursement rate of family members," Martire said. "[Working parents] are given a choice of keeping their jobs or quitting the job and caring for children because they can't afford childcare services."
The governor's office sees it differently.