Budget Hearings, Town Halls, Rallies: Let’s Roll Out!

A note below from Access Living’s Director of Advocacy with Budget Updates, and updates on the work to stop budget cuts to human services programs.

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This week, a great deal of work continues to push back on our state budget crisis. The Governor is getting the budget bills and will be making decisions about what he will sign off on, so there is a great deal of tension. A budget agreement must be reached in one week, on July 1, or at least some human service providers report they will have to begin layoffs or service reductions ( see this link for one example). It is incredibly important to make our concerns public. There are also some upcoming events you may be interested in joining, so read on for the full detail.

Yesterday, people with disabilities and seniors testified at a House hearing in the Capitol on the DON score problem. All of the Home Services Program and the Community Care Program consumers who testified were in the DON score “danger zone” of 29-36 (37 being the new limit the state wants to instate). Access Living, INCIL, and the AARP of Illinois all supported witnesses to testify. Chairman Greg Harris also invited state officials to testify on why the state feels compelled to make this change.

There was a great deal of contentiousness during the hearing, in which a few legislators stated that since the state budget is not final, having a hearing on the DON did not make sense, whereas other legislators countered that the human impact of budget cuts is in fact important and that legislators should be doing everything they could to protect home services. State Representative Kathleen Willis, for example, pointedly asked the state why they wanted to change the DON, because every consumer and expert she had heard advised against it. The state’s response was that they have a “mandate” under the 2012 SMART Act to change the DON score from 29 to 37 in order to save money. The “mandate” is under some question by advocates because the state can only proceed with federal approval. We and our partners are continuing work to fight back against the DON score change.

Today, Access Living will be joining the Responsible Budget Coalition at 11 am at the Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph in Chicago) in a press conference to call for a revenue solution to avert a possible budget crisis. In order to preserve human services as they are now, more revenue has to be raised. Many organizations will speak about the devastating impact cuts will have on their employees and services.

This evening, State Senator Heather Steans, and State Representatives Greg Harris and Kelly Cassidy, will hold a town hall on the budget cuts from 7 to 8:30 pm at St. Andrew’s, 5649 Sheridan Road. There is a parking lot and the event is free. Access Living will attend. The legislators hope you will come and give voice to your concerns about the state budget.

Tomorrow, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus will hold a Community Values Rally from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the L. C. Redmond South Austin Coalition, 5071 West Congress Parkway in Chicago. The Black Caucus has many members who have been outspoken opponents of cuts to critical human services, so Access Living urges as many people as possible to attend. This event is also free.

Please keep Access Living posted of other budget rallies and town halls so we can help get out the word. It is time for the people to MOVE! Let’s go Illinois!

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living