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Services Rally 03/11/16

Home health care workers, from left, Cherri Andrews, April Hutson and Karol Murphy talk about proposed cuts in state funding as they stand near a high rise residential building in Mattoon on Friday.

CHARLESTON -- Local health care home workers, senior citizens, and other advocates for funding to home care for the elderly and disabled sought to make a stand Friday against financial cuts to home care.

Supporters for funding home care lined the sidewalk on the east side of the high-rise residential building located next to Peterson Park to oppose Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts to home care services that could potentially force some people into nursing homes.

Under Rauner’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget, almost $200 million in cuts in the Illinois Department of Aging’s budget directly impacts the Community Care Program, which provides home services and cares for seniors and disabled.

Health care aide Karol Murphy said the program allows her and her colleagues to help seniors get the care they need without needing to be placed into a nursing home.

“My job is to keep my clients in their home, and I don't feel it's right for them to have to get put in a nursing home,” Murphy said. “They count on us to come in.”

The protesters chanted opposition toward Rauner and his proposed budget cuts and called for support from passersby as they waved signs saying “Stand up for seniors and children. No Rauner cuts.”

The cost to sustain the program, under the current model, would require an additional $93.3 million over the period of FY17 through the fiscal year 2022, according to a Department of Aging report.

The report states that Illinois’ aging population is expected to more than double by 2030. Enrollment in the program has “significantly grown over the past 10 years, from 40,965 enrollees in 2005 to 83,787 enrollees in 2015, a 105 percent increase over a decade.”

According to the SEIU Healthcare, a health care union, the governor's proposal would negatively impact 43,700 seniors not covered by Medicaid, indicated by the proposal, who would be moved to the Community Reinvestment Program.

The almost $200 million cut represents an average cut of $4,520 in services annually per affected senior, which is a 43 percent cut in services compared with the average amount of services seniors receive currently.

Among the little over a dozen people who rallied late Friday afternoon stood Bonnie Swift, a senior who benefits from the program and whose funds would be cut under the new proposal. She said if the proposal went into effect, she would likely lose her home.

“We’ll be hurting,” she said.

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Cherri Andrews, home care aide, said she along with others waving signs and supporting their cause were out Friday to protect seniors from being forced into nursing homes because aid cannot provide for them to stay at home and have a home care provider.

The disabled would also be hurt, Andrews said.

“I don't want the cuts to the handicapped either because I have an autistic son and this is his last year of school and if he doesn't get help from the state of Illinois, I’ll have to quit my job,” she said.

April Hutson, health care aide, said she wanted to just provide a voice to those seniors who don't have one, like some she has helped before.

“(Seniors and disabled) have a voice also, but they can't do what we can do for them: get out and voice their own opinion,” Hutson said.

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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