My View: State Budget Mess Hurts Senior Citizens

By Jean Bohnhoff, Director, Illinois Department on Aging


Jean Bohnhoff

Jean Bohnhoff, director of the Illinois Department on Aging

As children, our parents take care of us. They feed us, clothe us and try their hardest to ensure that we have all that we need to thrive. As adults, it’s our turn to make sure that we take care of those that once cared for us. The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) has embraced this mission alongside our partners throughout the senior community. However this task has been made increasingly difficult due to the lack of a state budget.

Illinois has entered an unprecedented moment in time — nearly a full year without a balanced budget.

This has left many providers throughout the aging network struggling — tightening budgets, reducing hours and laying off staff — trying to find a way to make it through just one more month in hopes the majority party will work with the governor to enact a truly balanced budget alongside meaningful reforms. Many others have closed their doors and have ceased providing services.

This shows the true impact of the failure to pass a balanced budget. It is taking a toll on our most vulnerable.

Due to this lack of action, the governor, alongside leaders Christine Radogno and Jim Durkin, have introduced SB 3435/HB 6585 — a fully funded stopgap bill that pays for social services for the next six months. It is time the majority party puts politics aside and works with Gov. Bruce Rauner to ensure that we protect our state’s social services infrastructure and allow our provider networks to continue caring for our most vulnerable.

It is important for us to find a way to care for our seniors without destroying the future of our state for our children and grandchildren. In the absence of structural reforms, the future of our state remains in jeopardy. Those that rely on these services should not continue to be punished for decades of financial mismanagement and a refusal to enact structural reforms to ensure the long-term sustainability of these very programs.

While SB 3435/HB 6585 won’t itself fix the damage caused by years of failed policies, it will allow providers the resources to continue serving the clients that depend on them. If the majority party will not negotiate a balanced budget that includes reforms, I’m hopeful they will consider the needs of our social services providers and recipients and pass this fully funded stopgap.

The Department on Aging urges Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, to work with the governor and pass SB 3435/HB 6585 to protect our seniors, help to stabilize our aging network and begin moving Illinois down a path to a sustainable future that will allow us to continue to serve these communities for many years to come.

Jean Bohnhoff is director of the Illinois Department on Aging.

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