May is Older Americans Month. This year’s theme Safe Today, Healthy Tomorrow focuses on injury prevention that emphasizes helping older adults stay active. This is timely as we are witnessing an increase in the number of adults reaching retirement age who are remaining strong and active for longer than ever before.
The Illinois Department on Aging serves as an advocate for older adults and their caregivers by administering programs that help older adults live independently in their homes and communities. Without services to assist, many of our most vulnerable would be have few choices to remain independent and would find themselves forced to live in nursing home facilities. Without question, services delivered to older adults’ homes in their communities cost the state far less than nursing home services.
Illinois legislators are debating Governor Pat Quinn’s budget proposal that calls for maintaining the current state income tax rate. Those who say Illinois can tax less and spend less while still providing vital services and critical care for older adults are not telling the truth. Programs such as the Community Care Program, Adult Protective Services, and Home Delivered Meals account for more than 95% of the Department’s general revenue fund budget. Without that revenue from the current income tax rate, many of the state's critical services will face radical cuts, and increase the backlog of bills.
- Community Care Program: The “Not Recommended” budget level would reduce the average number of in-home service units from 46 hours a month down to 34 hours.
- Adult Protection Services: The “Not Recommended” budget level would not allow for growth from the expansion to cover persons with disabilities age 18 to 59 living in a domestic setting, and among the elderly. To live within this budget the program would have to restrict the kinds of cases it investigates.
- Home Delivered Meals: The “Not Recommended” budget would not allow for the needed 54% increase of meal levels. To accommodate a reduction, more seniors in need of nutrition assistance would have to be wait listed.
If action is not taken to retain our current income tax rate, the reality is that effective July 1, 2014, extreme cuts will be imposed. These cuts could mean we’d lose in-home caregivers for 21,000 older adults; and the older adults living in nursing homes across Illinois would be left vulnerable, resulting from the severe cuts to nursing home ombudsmen visits.
May is Older Americans Month. We urge legislators to vote to retain the current income tax rate in support of Governor Quinn’s budget for fiscal year 2015. The Governor’s plan protects families including the more than two million residents aged 60 years or older who call Illinois their home.
John K. Holton, PhD
Illinois Department on Aging