Illinois’ budget deadline for FY16 has passed and what is left in this game of political tug-of-war is uncertainty for our families and communities. Since no budget agreement was reached on July 1, 2015 (the start of the new fiscal year), and despite a recent hard-fought proposal to spend federal funds if the state Senate agrees, this uncertainty has become a way of life as the social safety net that protects our most at-risk citizens has been hit the hardest. Here are stories from working families, people who are disabled, and seniors who are living in this crisis.
What's at risk for Ella: Childcare for working families
Ella came to the United States because she believed it was “a country [with] freedom, justice and where anyone could be anything they wanted.” With the help of the Childcare Assistance program of Illinois Action for Children, Ella was able to secure affordable day care that allowed her to accept a full-time job to better provide for her children. But she was recently notified that she no longer qualified for that help because she was slightly above the new state-imposed income cutoff. Ella says, “I feel like this new government of Illinois does not care for children or for the parents who need to work in order to provide for them.”
What's at risk for Donna: Opportunities for people who are disabled
Donna is a 28-year old woman with cerebral palsy. She uses a wheelchair and lives with her parents, who assist her with personal care and activities of daily living and are reimbursed by the state for those services. Donna says that those services have enabled her to pursue her education and seek employment. But she fears that eligibility changes may disqualify her from state funding and create a real hardship for her family: “If I’m taken off the program, then I’m forcing my parents to either have to find me somewhere to live, like a nursing home, or we will have to pay out of pocket, which we really can’t afford to do.”
What's at risk for Earl: Independence for seniors
Earl is a senior who says proudly, “I’ve never asked for help. Offered, I didn’t want it.” As he has aged, however, injuries suffered in his adolescence have caused debilitating leg and back problems. Earl receives in-home assistance from an aide provided through the state’s Community Care Program. His aide performs housekeeping chores that he cannot complete himself, allowing him to continue to live independently. But Earl knows that proposed changes to the Community Care Program threaten his independence and that of countless others: “There’s going to be an awful lot of 80-, 85-year-olds, 90-year-olds who are not going to be covered, if they ever get there, because they aren’t going to be covered at 75 to get to 85 and 90.”
Though different bills have been introduced to help relieve some of the pressure points, older adults are directly affected by not having a budget in place. Two areas that are not currently funded include the state share of Meals on Wheels and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps seniors and other households pay for their air conditioning and heat.
In addition to this, Governor Rauner wants to make eligibility changes to those families who receive home health care services, which could result in 24,000 senior citizens losing their in-home care services. Nonprofits across the state are also not getting paid for services they provide during this budget impasse. That means that organizations, like the Monroe Randolph Transit District in Sparta, have been forced to shut their doors indefinitely and can no longer provide transportation assistance for seniors who need to get to medical appointments.
If we place value on a social safety net for seniors and children, quality roads and transportation, clean air, and an education system that builds the strength of our economy, we have to speak up and urge our lawmakers and the Governor to act now. Donors Forum has been actively involved in passing a budget that protects all Illinoisans and want to share what you can do as well:
> Email your lawmakers and the Governor, visit your state Representatives and Senators at their district office, or call them at 1-844-311-CUTS (2887). Tell them to pass a FULLY-funded year-long budget now by choosing revenue. Please also share if you are an individual that is currently not receiving assistance because of the budget impasse.
If you want to learn more about the state’s current budget situation, please visit the Donors Forum website or contact Doug Schenkelberg, VP of Strategy and Policy at Donors Forum (email@example.com).
Post submitted by: Donors Forum - Caroline Staerk, Public Policy Manager; H.O.M.E. – Janet Takehara
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