Seniors and Home Care Workers Rally at State Capitol to Call for Supplemental Appropriation Bill As Funding Crisis Looms

On February 5th, 2013, approximately 200 home care workers, seniors and people with disabilities who receive home care services held a rally in the Statehouse Rotunda to call for urgent supplemental funding to protect vital services. ABC News channel 20 interviewed SEIU Healthcare member Gail Hamilton, a home care worker at “Help at Home” in Springfield, who said that unless state lawmakers take urgent action seniors will start to face horrific service cuts and possibly get kicked out of programs.

Home care services enable over 100,000 seniors and people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes across Illinois with the assistance of home care workers.  Beyond protecting the dignity and security of these consumers, home care assistance also saves the state hundreds of millions by avoiding costly institutional care.

But home care programs in Illinois are facing major funding shortfalls. The Community Care Program through the Department on Aging serves seniors and faces a total shortfall of $313 million; $173 million in previous liability from FY12, and a $140 million operating deficit in FY13. This shortfall is the result of historical underfunding and an 8-10% growth in natural caseload over the past several years as our state’s population ages.

Barbara Edwards, a senior advocate, 73-years-old, spoke at the rally and said, “I don’t need home care services yet, and I’m grateful for that. But I want to make sure this vital program is around for those seniors who will need these services one day.  Every senior is a fall away or some other health crisis that could require home care services. We need to strengthen our home care program, not weaken it.”

“It’s not fair to our seniors who fear they could lose their home care services and be forced into a nursing home.  It’s just not right that seniors need to be ones who have to sacrifice,” said Samantha Lewis, an agency home care worker from Help at Home.  “We shouldn’t be balancing our budget on those who can least afford these horrific cuts.”

In addition, the DHS-DRS Home Services Program that provides access to home care services for people with disabilities is facing an approximate $40 million shortfall. The final FY13 budget included an increase of $4 million from FY12, but the budget also includes $40 million in cuts to services and eligibility which would impact current and future consumers.

“Beyond the daily and vital services that we provide, we surround our consumers with love and support so they don’t feel alone or isolated. It is our presence in their lives, in their own homes, that sustains them,” said Stephanie Knighten who had worked for five years as a home care worker in the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DORS) program.  Her consumer is no longer eligible for home care services.  “These home care programs are being cut and the state legislature needs to act immediately to protect our most vulnerable citizens.  We’re here today to stand and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”