On Monday, March 16, Access Living joined many other non-profits and social service agencies at a Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing. Speaking before Committee Chair Heather Steans (D-7), other committee members, and Greg Bassi, the acting Secretary of the Department of Human Services, community members testified about the tragic consequences that the budget cuts would have on the independence and the health of children and marginalized populations across the state of Illinois. Access Living witnesses will testified in support of community based services that enable people to live in their own apartments and integrated communities. Without these services, people will be forced into costly institutions. Access Living speakers included Jimmie Yarbrough. Yarbrough, who is disabled and uses a wheel-chair, lives in his own apartment with the support of personal assistants. Funded through the Illinois Home Services Program, personal assistants help out with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and dressing. Currently, 30,000 people with disabilities across Illinois utilize the Home Services Program. Under the proposed budget, 10,000 people, including Yarbrough, would be cut from the program. “The cuts the Governor wants to make are penny wise and pound foolish,” said Yar-brough. “I speak for 10,000 of my brothers and sisters in the Home Services Program when I say this is a matter of life or death for us.”
Jimmie Yarbrough (yellow shirt) testifies to Senate Appropriations Committee on March 16
Access Living and other groups argue that Illinois would be better off investing in community based supports. Without community based supports, people with disabilities will end up in emergency care and institutional care, costing thousands of dollars more per person every year. For people with disabilities, in terms of community care versus nursing homes, nursing homes cost $17,000 more per person each year.
Marca Bristo, Access Living’s President and CEO, also testified at the Hearing. Bristo mentioned that Access Living supports the State’s verbal commitment to integrating people with disabilities into community based settings. But stressed budget line items don’t support that verbal commitment. “First and foremost, we oppose the arbitrary and capricious reduction of $110 million in funding to the Home Services program,” Bristo said. “These people are the least likely to ask for help and the most likely to die should their services end; not to mention being forced into nursing home or going to jail or becoming homeless.”
Access Living and other groups will continue to fight against the budget cuts, testifying at hearings, and visiting legislators in the home and capitol offices. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Amer-icans with Disabilities Act, a major civil rights law upon which I personally worked,” Bristo went on to say. “After decades of struggle to win our independence, and to tear down social barriers, this is like throwing us all back into institutions once more. It is unacceptable.”
Coverage of the Senate Hearing from the Chicago Tribune
Coverage of Hearing from Progress Illinois
Coverage from WGN TV