Being a home care worker is more than just a job for Tanya Moses. Over the seven years she’s worked with the Community Care Program, she’s found family and companionship in the two older ladies she helps after her own mother died.
When she learned Gov. Bruce Rauner had vetoed House Bill 1424, which would have allowed the program to continue, she was disappointed, then angry.
“We don’t just come in and take them places or make them meals, we stay with them. We sit, we listen, we give them companionship,” Moses said Saturday. “The governor isn’t thinking about the people and their needs. He’s taking away their right to live in dignity.”
Established in 1979, the Community Care Program helps those 60 or older remain in their own homes by providing in-home, community-based services.
The hope is that by providing this care, seniors won’t have to go to nursing homes. Any person who applies for services is provided them if they meet eligibility requirements, which include being a U.S. citizen, a state resident and having an assessed need for long-term care.
Rauner issued a veto message on Friday, saying the bill would reduce the ability “to assess and serve Illinois’ elderly and persons with disabilities.”
The bill would’ve put eligibility standards Rauner wants changed into law.
Among other changes, Rauner wants to implement another option called the Community Reinvestment Program he says would better serve seniors and provide more flexibility.
As one of the sponsors of the bill, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said he and other legislators are worried for the seniors the program serves. They’re also concerned that the Community Reinvestment Program, which was proposed by Rauner and would offer “flexible” alternatives for care, won’t provide adequate services.
“We’ve tried repeatedly to tell the governor that a shift to an untried system is problematic and dangerous,” Harris said. “It puts people at risk for no good reason and it’s going to cost taxpayers more money.”
Rauner’s veto of the bill Friday could put the lives of roughly 80,000 seniors and people with disabilities into jeopardy, advocates say. HB 1424 would have protected seniors in the community care program from massive cuts, reductions in care and a full-scale dismantling of the program, Terri Harkin, director of SEIU Healthcare’s Illinois Home Care Division, said in a statement.
“Gov. Rauner has once again demonstrated his complete lack of empathy, compassion and concern for some of the most vulnerable in our communities,” the statement reads. “Instead of a successful program that has existed for years, the governor has proposed herding this group of seniors into an unproven and untested patchwork system that included subjecting seniors to Uber vouchers, food coupons and maid services.”
Services vary but include day services for older adults who can’t be home alone due to physical, social or mental disabilities, as well as in-home services, which provides assistance with home maintenance like cleaning and meal preparation.
Lori Hendren, associate state director for the AARP, said the veto was not surprising but still hurtful. The AARP has been a champion of the bill, which didn’t seek more funding but would leave the program as is, Hendren said.
“The program is more cost effective than putting people in nursing homes, and we know that when people live at home they live longer, healthier lives,” she said. “We intend to speak with lawmakers about possible next steps. It’s important that we, as advocates and family and friends, continue to stand together for seniors.”
Moses said she hopes the program will remain in place despite the veto, adding advocates and families need to “stick together to fight” for seniors. Nursing homes can’t provide the same one-on-one care, she said.
“If we lose this program, we’ll lose seniors, too,” Moses said. “These people are our families, our friends, our teachers, the cornerstones of our communities. They’ve earned the right to live in their homes.”
Contributing: The Associated Press