February 2013

The Fight to Save Illinois Home Care Programs Continues

For the second time this month, hundreds of home care workers, seniors, and people with disabilities converged on the State Capitol to press lawmakers for supplemental funding that would save the programs that tens of thousands rely on.

The Community Care Program is facing a shortfall of $313 million, threatening seniors across Illinois who rely on home care to continue living independently at home.  The Home Services Program, which serves people with disabilities, is short another $40 million and without quick action by lawmakers, home care consumers and workers could soon see their hours cut or lose access to services all together.

Home care provides critical in home services that help keep seniors and people with disabilities out of costly nursing home care. If this crisis is not addressed, many will be faced with nowhere to turn but nursing home care – costing our state millions more.

Below is testimony from home care providers and consumers, about how these cuts would impact them.

“Life without my home care provider would be devastating. I was down to 136 lbs. after I had cancer and didn’t have the strength to care for myself and make sure I was taking the medication I needed. All that changed when my home care worker, Annette Jones, showed up; she prepares my meals, gets my groceries, helps with house cleaning, gets me to my doctor appointments, and makes sure I always take my medicine. Seniors like me will lose our lifelines if lawmakers don’t pass additional funding for home care.”

Herman Byrd, Senior in Chicago, IL


“I care for a senior with a lung deficiency and daily tasks that the rest of us take for granted are monumental challenges for her. Without me my senior would have no one else to count on for help – her granddaughters are studying at college and they have peace of mind knowing that I’m providing quality care for their grandmother back home. Nursing homes are not for everyone and they cost our state a lot more money than the care I provide. It’s time for lawmakers to make a smart investment and pass supplemental funding to keep seniors and people with disabilities living in their homes independently.”

Yvette Anderson, Home Care Aid in Chicago, IL


“Home care assistance gives our consumers hope and makes them feel that their lives have meaning. After my consumer lost her husband of over 30-years almost two years ago, it was as if she didn’t want to live.  But when I started taking care of her, and making sure she received the attention and compassion that she needed, I know her outlook changed for the better.  This work is more than just daily tasks.”

Andy Dover, DORS Personal Assistant in Cobden, Illinois

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Workers rally for a ‘living wage’; tell wealthy owners to invest in workers and residents

Workers demonstrate for living wages at Warren Barr Pavilion nursing home in Chicago.

CHICAGO–Dozens of low wage nursing home workers and supporters rallied outside Warren Barr nursing home on Chicago’s Gold Coast Feb. 20 demanding better pay and working conditions.

Waving signs and chanting “good jobs now”, protesters called on nursing home owners to invest their wealth in workers and nursing home residents.

“When I started in this work three decades ago, I made $2.90 cents an hour. Thirty one years later I barely make over $10 an hour,” said Tanya Rizer, a certified nursing assistant. “Nursing home workers have toiled far too long on jobs in an industry that continually ranks as one of the most stressful and dangerous in the country. Where is the money that we generate for these nursing homes going other than into the owners’ pockets?”

Tanya said nursing home owners belonging to the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities (IAHCF) generate more than $1 billionin revenues annually. Yet, they spend only 15 percent of their revenue in wages for workers.

The starting wage for a worker is barely more than $9 an hour, Tanya pointed out.

“There’s no way they can pay us what we’re worth, but they can help to improve the quality of our lives just as we seek to improve the quality of our nursing home residents’ lives every day. We do back-breaking work but receive spirit-breaking wages,” she said.

Kenya Baker, a certified nursing assistant, showed a large poster board detailing her monthly income and expenses. At the end of the month, she’s more than $800 dollars in the hole, she said.

“That means some bills don’t get paid. I get ‘past due’ notices. But I can’t sacrifice feeding my kids to pay a bill. We need a living wage to stop this paycheck-to-paycheck cycle,” she said.

The nursing home workers were joined by members of the Fight for $15 low wage food and retail workers group who are fighting to receive $15 an hour wages from profitable Gold Coast stores and restaurants.

After marching into the Barr Pavilion nursing home to deliver past due bills of some of the nursing home workers, the group marched to the offices of Grosvenor Capital Management, a hedge fund firm and major donor to Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk. Protestors delivered a “stop the cuts” message, stating that automatic sequester cuts supported by Republicans will devastate essential programs for seniors, children and low-income communities.

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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.”

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