Gubernatorial Campaigns Discuss Home Care, CCP Program at Senior Forum

IARAForum9Four campaigns vying for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor appeared at a forum in Springfield at Senior Services of Central Illinois to discuss their stances on long term care for seniors, Medicaid, pensions, home care services, and more.

Over the course of 90 minutes, State Senator Daniel Biss, Bob Daiber, State Rep. Juliana Stratton (running mate of JB Pritzker), and Ra Joy (running mate of Chris Kennedy) answered questions posed by a group of mostly senior citizens on issues that effect elders the most, and what they would do to better the quality of life for Illinois’ senior citizens. The forum was organized by the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Caring Across Generations Action Fund, and the Jane Adams Senior Caucus.

“I’m 66 years old, and I’m disabled with severe arthritis and back pain,” Deborah, a member of the Jane Adams Senior Caucus, told the candidates. “I rely on my home care worker Alisha to take care of my house as I would if I could. All seniors have the right to live and age in their own home and all home care workers deserve fair wages, benefits, and appropriate training. How would you improve the Community Care Program for seniors and those who care for them?”

“We know that every senior should have the ability to choose the setting in which they receive care,” said Rep Stratton, representing the JB Pritzker campaign. “This is a civil rights issue.”

Both Rep. Stratton and Sen. Biss recounted stories of their aging relatives who utilize the home care program. “Without that home care worker my cousin Edith (100 years old) would be in a nursing home and her life would be completely different,” said Biss. “Nobody should be able to be at risk of not being able to age at home and live with dignity.” He and Ray Joy, representing the Chris Kennedy campaign, both said that home care workers need living wages, benefits, and overtime pay.

All four campaign representatives agreed that pensions are a contract and a promise that need to be kept to workers. “You and I made the decision in our careers that we would serve the public,” said Daiber. You deserve to retire with dignity. I will not impair your pension.” “Pension theft is wrong, it’s immoral, and as the state supreme court ruled – it’s unconstitutional,” Joy told the audience. “This is a manufactured crisis, and something we have the ability to address.”

Camille Taylor, a fulltime caregiver, was unable to make the trip to Springfield from Bloomington, but moderator Rachel Pierson posed her question to the candidates. “Over 85 percent of long term care is provided by family members,” wrote Taylor. “The financial and emotional stress on caregivers can feel insurmountable. What do you think the state should do to alleviate the challenges faced by family caregivers?”

“We have a plan to build a social structure in Illinois designed for how people actually live, not how people are supposed to live,” said Biss, who said that everyone needs access to long term universal family care. “People should have the ability to have a family and work at the same time…We can no longer assume every person aging in our society has an adult child living nearby to care for them.”

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“Everybody wishes to live with the dignity of a full time caregiver,” said Daiber, who told the group about how he provided care for his mother. “We need to support families doing what I did who get no compensation.” “What the state needs to do is make sure there are more home care options and we’re strengthening the network unlike Governor Bruce Rauner, who cut it,” said Rep. Stratton, adding that the state needs to raise wages, provide benefits and training for those who do the work of caregivers, regardless of familial status.

All four campaigns committed to signing House Bill 1424, legislation protecting the Community Care Program, which Governor Rauner vetoed, and both Stratton and Biss cosponsored. “When we look at all the vulnerable populations under attack by Bruce Rauner – it’s really sickening,” said Stratton. “When we have to think about fighting for our communities that have been forgotten it’s greater recognition that we have to do better.”

“Unforutnately you don’t have to look very far to see what heartless leadership looks like,” said Joy. “We have it in the white house and in the governor’s mansion. We need to bring care and compassion back to governing.”

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