AARP, State Treasurer, Senior Service Groups Urge Governor, Legislature To Pass Budget, Protect Older Illinoisans

State Seniors Face Grave Hardships as Local Organizations Cut Critical Services & Face Closure

Nov 05, 2015, 14:30 ET from AARP Illinois

ALTON, Ill., Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With thousands of older adults at risk of, or already losing, in-home services due to the current budget stalemate, today AARP, State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs, community organizations and Alton residents urged Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to cease political posturing and pass a full Fiscal Year 2016 state budget that funds the critical home and community-based programs and services countless Illinoisans depend on.

During a press conference inside Senior Services Plus (SSP) of Alton – an organization that has recently been forced to cut services and staff due to the lack of a state budget – the speakers noted that older Illinoisans are already facing grave hardships because the organizations they rely on are no longer able to provide essential services like meals on wheels, financial, or transportation assistance. With the Governor and legislators due back in Springfield for session, it is imperative to fully fund programs in efficient and effective ways that save taxpayers' money, stimulate our state's economy and provide critical services to vulnerable populations.

"The lack of a state budget is not only hurting countless older residents, individuals with disabilities, children, and working families; it is also deepening our financial crisis now, and for the foreseeable future.  Fully-funding home and community-based services is a win-win as it both protects the dignity and independence of those who rely on the services and it is good stewardship of state taxpayer dollars," said Ryan Gruenenfelder, Manager of Advocacy and Outreach for AARP Illinois.

"The financial crisis in Illinois is hurting our state's most vulnerable, including Illinois seniors," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. "It is vital that the Governor and General Assembly put aside their differences to end this budget impasse and alleviate the uncertainty for the many families who rely on state funding."

"The lack of a state budget has been and will continue to be devastating to SSP's operation and the seniors we serve," said Jonathan Becker, Executive Director of Senior Services Plus, Inc. "We have had to reduce services, seen the creation of waiting lists and deny services because of the impasse. SSP has had to eliminate positions and operate under enormous pressure and strain because we have no way of forecasting what our financial future is. It is the most ineffective manner to operate a business and the impact of this budget stalemate will affect the state economy for many years to come in a permanent negative manner."

"The ongoing budget impasse is causing the dismantling of the service infrastructure that has been built to support seniors to live safely and independently in their homes and communities," said Joy Paeth, CEO of AgeSmart Community Resources. "Without this service infrastructure we will begin to see an outmigration of seniors when they cannot find services to support them as they age."

"Senior Services Plus has been providing me meals for eight years. I have always received a hot, nutritious meal daily but recently I have only received meals twice a week," said Francis Gonzales, a local, 77-year-old male who lives alone in a senior apartment in Alton. "I fear this is only the beginning of a downfall of critical, life-saving services that is going to affect a lot of people."

State programs providing caregiving services for older individuals, such as Illinois' Community Care Program are catalysts for economic growth and prosperity for Illinois statewide. AARP highlighted important economic advantages these programs invest in Illinois, according to the Innovation Illinois Caregiver Impacts Report based on Fiscal Year 2013 numbers:

  • Every dollar spent on home care in Illinois generates $2.04 in economic activity in the state.
  • The Community Care Program created 35,400 home caregiver jobs, and indirectly generated another 12,390 jobs in Illinois.
  • Based on the program's monthly average cost of care per client ($854), CCP is estimated to provide average cost savings of $20,496 per consumer per year compared with nursing home care.
  • Illinois saves more than $600 million a year in Medicaid costs via the home-care model instead of more costly public institutionalization. After subtracting the Federal Medicaid match, that translates into more than $300 million in GRF savings.

AARP, on behalf of our 1.7 million Illinois members, along with State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs, Senior Services Plus of Alton, Southwest Illinois Visiting Nurses Association, AgeSmart Community Resources, dozens of other organizations, and area residents urge the Governor and the General Assembly to rise above politics, prioritize the life and well-being of our state's most vulnerable population and immediately pass a budget which fully funds home and community-based services.