Fight for Centers for Independent Living

Last week, Governor Rauner delivered the State of the State in Illinois. Next week, the Governor will deliver the Budget Address. With a gaping hole in the State Budget, now is the time to raise awareness about services that save Illinois money and that ensure people with disabilities can live in integrated communities. Centers for Independent Living are one item on a list of many programs that meet the criteria.

The message below is from Access Living’s Director of Advocacy, urging everyone to contact your legislators to fight for Centers for Independent Living.

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

I am calling upon you today to help fight for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across Illinois. What’s a CIL, you may ask?

Illinois has 23 CILs that serve assigned counties across our state; in fact, almost all of Illinois’ 102 counties has a CIL that serves its area. Access Living is the CIL for metropolitan Chicago, while Progress Center is the CIL for suburban Cook County. You can look up all the CILs in Illinois at .

A CIL is a non-profit that receives at least some of its funding from the federal government. In order to be qualified as a CIL and receive this funding, a CIL must provide:

1. Information and referral services for people with disabilities
2. Independent living services
3. Advocacy on disability concerns
4. Peer support services
5. Transition services for a) high school graduates with disabilities entering post secondary school or work opportunities and b) nursing home/institution residents who want to live in their own homes in the community.

Additionally, a CIL’s staff and board each must be comprised of at least 50% people with disabilities.

What CILs have to offer is a voice and community space for the authentic self-interest of people with disabilities. There are no other non-profit providers that can state they are run by and for a majority of people with disabilities. The peer aspect of our work is what sets us apart in all the range of things we do.

So why do we need an action alert? Some funding to CILs comes from the state of Illinois, and is at risk in the current budget crisis. Last year, the Illinois General Assembly approved $4,296,500 in funding for Illinois CILs. The funding is allotted between all the CILs according to a formula. The funding is particularly important to smaller CILs whose communities may have fewer other fundraising opportunities.

If the money is cut, some consequences for at least some CILs would be less programming, fewer hours open, and possibly staff with hours reduced or cut. Because the fiscal crisis is so widespread and possible cuts may be across the board, CILs would definitely not be seen as being singled out; however, a cut would be taken as a signal that the state is not investing in CILs as it should for the long term. Further, CILs have federal requirements that the state funding helps us meet.

We will know for sure whether CILs will face a budget cut from the state on February 18, when Governor Rauner is scheduled to deliver his budget speech and budget details will be released. CIL staff from around the state will be down at the Capitol to listen to the news and act together.

We need YOUR HELP to let legislators know we need them to help protect state CIL funding. The easiest way to do this is to go to the link and follow the instructions to send a quick message to your state legislators. All you have to do is fill out the form and the system will send the letter automatically to the correct legislators. Please DO IT NOW before you forget!

Let’s go Illinois! Together we can stand up not only for CILs but for people with disabilities all across our state.

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

PS: For Chicago voters, today is the first day of early voting. Access Living is an early voting location…just stop by 115 W. Chicago Avenue and the polls are on our fourth floor.