PI Original Angela Caputo Friday June 12th, 2009, 9:17am

Home Care Aide: Budget Cuts "Are Only Going To Create More Poor People"

The apparent deadline for the state government to adopt a new
revenue source or begin slashing human services is now only three weeks
away and pushback is intensifiying. 
Yesterday, a group of SEIU Healthcare Illinois members who provide
state-sponsored day care, home ...

The apparent deadline for the state government to adopt a new revenue source or begin slashing human services is now only three weeks away and pushback is intensifiying.  Yesterday, a group of SEIU Healthcare Illinois members who provide state-sponsored day care, home health care, veterans services, violence counseling, and so on, made their way to certain lawmakers' offices to show them first-hand why they ought to save the programs. 

Up first was a trio of south suburban Democratic Reps. -- Kevin McCarthy, Jim Brosnahan, and Mike Zalewski -- who all voted against a temporary tax increase last month. They were paid a visit by dozens of state workers, including home health care aide Gwendolyn Vaughe, who asked the representatives how they could justify the life-or-death cuts. "What does this mean for our seniors?" Vaughe asked. "Are they going to be left to die?"

When we caught up with Rep. McCarthy in his Orland Park office, he told us that he's yet to see exactly what programs are at stake (department heads are still pulling together the specifics), but acknowledged "dire circumstances" are ahead. "None of my colleagues have blinders on," he tells us. "They see how important these cuts are."  But do they?

Rebia Mixon Clay is a former real estate manager who quit her job to provide full-time care to a disabled brother with cerebral palsy.  She currently receives a $9.85-per-hour stipend from the state, her only source of income.  Outside McCarthy's offices, Clay described to us the potential effect on her family -- and her community -- if the budget for home health care gets lopped in half. "When you take jobs away from poor people," she said, "it's only going to create more poor people." Watch:

And as Gov. Quinn's Taxpayer Action Board (TAB) highlighted in a cost-cutting report issued last week, more institutionalized care for the disable and elderly will mean a heftier bill for taxpayers in the long run. Indeed, home health care costs the state three times less than putting someone in a nursing home. Further compounding the problem is the fact that, for every $1 worth of cuts by the state, human service programs stand to lose as much as $4 in federal matching money.

Rep. McCarthy acknowledged to us that "it's cheaper" to keep the elderly and infirm out of institutions.  Nonetheless, he insisted he's "not ready to switch" his opposition to the raising the income tax and gave it a "zero" chance of passing the House by month's end and "15 to 20 percent" chance of passing by August 1.  "I'm here to represent all people and people here [in the 37th District] don't want to pay higher taxes," McCarthy tells us.

While his vote may be politically expendient at the moment, what he and other lawmakers aren't telling their constituents is that, in the not-so-distant future, they're going to end up paying a lot more for less. 

Full disclosure: The SEIU Illinois State Council sponsors this website.

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