The Illinois House on Wednesday approved legislation aimed at blocking the Rauner administration's proposal to make it harder for seniors and people with disabilities to qualify for home services programs.
Rauner has proposed raising the minimum eligibility, or "Determination of Need," score from 29 to 37 for the Home Services Program for people with disabilities and the Community Care Program for low-income seniors. The programs connect seniors and people with disabilities to personal attendants who can assist them at their homes.
The legislation approved in the House on Wednesday by a 74-13-12 vote would keep the DON score at 29. The measure, contained in an amendment to HB 2482, passed the Senate last month by a 36-2-11 vote. It now goes to Rauner for consideration.
State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) were the main sponsors of the legislation in their respective chambers.
"We applaud Representative Harris, the chief sponsor of the legislation, and the House for passage of this bill and for recognizing the importance of supporting community based services for people with disabilities and seniors," Amber Smock, director of advocacy at Access Living, the Chicago-based disability rights advocacy group, said after today's House vote.
Increasing the DON score to 37 would cut off an estimated 10,000 Illinoisans with disabilities and 24,000 seniors from the programs, according to Access Living.
"The answer is not cutting services," Smock added. "The answer is investing is community-based services. Community-based supports make fiscal sense and they are good the independence and inclusion of people with disabilities and seniors."
SEIU* Healthcare Illinois President Keith Kelleher also issued a statement in response to today's House approval of the HB 2482 amendment:
This vote provides necessary protections to seniors and people with disabilities who were being forced by the Rauner administration into long-term care or nursing homes and placed in positions that threatened their health and welfare. Kicking 34,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities to the curb was downright cruel. And it was shameless for the Rauner administration to do so administratively when they knew they could not possibly achieve this end through proper legislative channels.
It's a shame that this vote was needed in the first place and hopefully serves as a lesson that, in bipartisan fashion, the people of Illinois are not prepared to sacrifice the welfare of our most vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities to a cheap and unprincipled political agenda.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.