To the Editor:
May is Older Americans Month. This year’s theme, “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow,” focuses on injury prevention that emphasizes helping older adults stay active.
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 advocates for older adults and their caregivers by administering programs that help older adults live independently in their homes and communities.
Without services to assist them, many of our most vulnerable would have few choices to remain independent and would find themselves forced to live in nursing home facilities. Services delivered to older adults’ homes in their communities cost the state far less than nursing home services. Illinois legislators are debating Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal, which calls for maintaining the current state income tax rate.
Those who say Illinois can tax and spend less while still providing vital services for older adults are wrong. Programs such as the Community Care Program, Adult Protective Services and home-delivered meals account for more than 95 percent of the department’s general fund.
Without revenue from the current income tax rate, many of the state’s critical services will face radical cuts.
• Community Care Program – The “not recommended” budget level would reduce the average number of in-home service units from 46 hours a month to 34 hours.
• Adult Protection Services – The “not recommended” budget level would not allow for growth from the expansion to cover people with disabilities ages 18 to 59 living in a domestic setting, and among the elderly. To live within this budget, the program would limit the cases it investigates.
• Home-delivered meals – The “not recommended” budget would not allow for the needed 54 percent increase in meal levels. A budget reduction would put more seniors in need of nutrition assistance on a wait list.
If our current income tax rate is not retained, extreme cuts will be imposed July 1. These cuts could mean we’d lose in-home caregivers for 21,000 older adults; older adults living in nursing homes across Illinois would be left vulnerable, resulting from a reduction in ombudsman visits.
We urge legislators to vote to retain the current income tax rate in support of Quinn’s budget for fiscal 2015. The governor’s plan protects families, including more than two million people older than 60 who call Illinois home.
John K. Holton
Director of the Illinois Department on Aging, Chicago