Will County Board members want more funding for transportation, social service system

Members were in favor of establishing a 211 system to connect residents with needed social services

Will County Board members are pushing for more money in their 2022 budget to enhance local transportation and establish a 211 system to connect residents with social services.

Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, moved to add three items to the budget during last Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting. He called for $300,000 to fund the Will-Ride service, an additional $300,000 for the county children’s advocacy center and $350,000 to help launch the 211 service.

The Will-Ride is a dial-a-ride service that operates in the eastern part of the county for residents to be transported to and from work, to get groceries, for medical appointments or social gatherings. Township governments and grants have been the primary funders of the program.

Nick Palmer, the chief of staff to the Will County Board, said the $300,000 from the county would be a significant new funding source for the service.

Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, recently announced the county will study local paratransit services with the help of a grant from Pace Suburban Bus. The study is meant to identify any gaps and recommend improvements to provide more options for residents.

The Will County Children’s Advocacy Center helps local law enforcement handle sexual and physical abuse and exploitation cases involving children ages 3 to 17.

The county government already contributes about $100,000 to the agency and provided the building it operates out of in Joliet. But Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who helped found the center, said while he’s looked to other funding sources, there remains more need for money.

“We’re doing everything we can outside the box to fund the center without leaning on the county,” Glasgow said and pointed out that other county governments do more to fund their local advocacy centers.

Board members on the committee voted to add the $300,000, which would bring the county’s total funds for the center to about $400,000 in 2022.

The members also approved the addition of $350,000 to help launch a 211 system, an effort spearheaded by the United Way of Will County.

Kamala Martinez, the president and CEO of the United Way, presented a plan to establish the 211 system during a County Board committee meeting last week. The presentation she gave described the goal of the system as serving as a resources to “make it easier for people in Will County, Illinois to connect with a comprehensive array of health and human services.”

Palmer said the system would act as a “one stop shop” for social service referrals.

The plan also calls for the United Way to account for just over half of the funding necessary for the 211 system while looking for other funding sources like grants. The other near half of the funding will be provided through the county and other municipalities.

The full County Board still will have to approve the 2022 budget at its meeting next Thursday.