‘Most vulnerable citizens’ affected by state cuts, advocates say

SHARE ‘Most vulnerable citizens’ affected by state cuts, advocates say

Ray Miller, 68, has a back injury and needs help maintaining his Rogers Park home. He is concerned about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget cuts. | Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times

Camille Cobb’s mother has Alzheimer’s and she spends her day at a adult day care center thanks to a state program that helps keep seniors with family and out of a nursing home.

But Cobb is now worried her 90-year-old mother won’t qualify for the program after Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the state will raise qualification requirements for the Department of Aging’s Community Care Program.

“I do understand it’s going to come a time to put her into a nursing home,” said Cobb, 36, of Roseland, who sends her mother, Eula, to Among Friends Adult Day Care in Crestwood. “Why should that be forced upon me now when I can spend the time with her now? She doesn’t have a lot of time left.”

On Tuesday, the governor’s office announced planned cuts to programs in nine different state departments as he took Springfield’s stalemate over state spending to a new level.

The cuts affect programs like the one Cobb’s mother benefits from and those that help the poor pay their heating bill and for child care. Tatiana Hunter, a 32-year-old Burnham mom, says she’s worried that she’ll have to quit school to take care of her toddler.

“His message is clear: The most vulnerable citizens of this state will be punished simply for being poor,” said Maria Whelan, the president of Illinois Action for Children, referring to Rauner.

The governor’s office and other Republicans say he has no choice but to take drastic measures.

“House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their caucuses passed a budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginningJuly 1that is nearly $4 billion in the hole,” the governor’s officesaid Tuesday as it announced the cuts, which also will see the shuttering of a state prison work camp and at least one juvenile prison; the shelving of the Illiana Expressway; and business incentives and film tax credits.

In all, the cuts will save about $400 million, the governor’s office said.

The governor’s office announced the Hardin County Work Camp will be closed and 180 inmates will be moved. The inmates participate in a bee-keeping program, plant food gardens and can participate in wood-working and electrical wiring courses, said Nicole Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

But programs like that one help inmates and the decision to close it is questionable, said Jennifer Vollen-Katz, the executive director of the John Howard Association of Illinois, an independent prison monitor.

“It is hard for me to imagine that closing one adult work camp makes a significant contribution to filling a $400 million hole,” she said.

The inmates will be “transferred to other work camps or minimum security prisons across the state where they will have continued opportunities to participate in IDOC programs,” said Wilson, the spokeswoman.

And the decision to suspend the program that helps the poor pay for winter heat will affect 130,000 to 170,000 people, said Dalitso Sulamoyo, president of the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies, which represents agencies that administer the program.

“This program is important because most low-income households pay anywhere between 21 to 30percent of their income towards their utilities,” he said, adding that more affluent families spend just about 4 to 6 percent.

“I’m hopeful they will resolve the budget so they won’t put these households at risk,” Sulamoyo said.

It isn’t just people like Cobb and her mother who benefit from the state’s community care program for seniors. About 39,000 people will be affected by the cuts, the AARP said.

Rogers Park resident Ray Miller, 68, has back and joint issues and needs a helper to keep his life in order and keep him independent.

An aide cleans his apartment and helps him with necessary tasks once a week — but that service might be at risk with the cuts.

“To me it would cost more money to put me in a [assisted living] home, take away my self-worth — my feeling of independence,” he said.

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