Although Social Services is not considered a powerful sector for people seeking professional empowerment by the state or federal government, it is still a significant necessity for the well-being of residents in need. These Services that were put in place during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency as America recovered from the Great Depression. Since the turn of the 19th Century, the United States has represented opportunity and freedom to immigrants seeking a better quality of life for themselves and their families. Many arrived with little or nothing as they built themselves up on new opportunities. The economics have shifted as unions have played a major role in the workforce with laborers.
The slashing of Illinois State budget cuts impacts thousands of Illinois residents with a major annihilation with in the Black community. Among some of the biggest cuts are childcare services and home care programs. The budget that Governor Bruce Rauner presented for the new fiscal year on July 1 eliminates $110 million from the Home Services program by changing the criteria. In addition, childcare enrollment is frozen to approximately 90 percent of new applicants affecting between 5,000 families and 9,000 children.
During Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair last week in Springfield, 600 protesters greeted Governor Rauner on the State fair- grounds. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare brought over 600 residents including seniors, parents and their young children from various parts of the state to make their voices heard on what is considered ‘Rauner’s Day’.
An early morning started the day as SEIU representatives planned special bus pick ups at various Senior Housing facilities and centers on both the South Side and West Side of Chicago. Heading out on the road by 7am with a predominately African American group of seniors—grandmothers, grandfathers and primary caretakers. Many of the bus riders are retired and independent – no stranger to the history of protesting. Living on a fixed income is very real and scary at the same when you readjust to a different lifestyle. This trip was not just another outing; it’s a mission.
According to Access Living, people who receive assistance through the Home Services program each save the Illinois Medicaid system an average of $17,000 annually by living at home rather than a nursing home. The program serves disabled individuals up to age 60.
Susan, who is disabled but lives a functional and productive life as a paraplegic, made the journey to Springfield her group to protest the proposed state budget cuts by Governor Rauner.
“Personally and professionally, I use home care services everyday to be independent and be a part of the community. The DON score, if that happens—will cut off 10,000 people from home services. There is no reason why Governor Rauner will not stop with my services,” Susan said. “So, I’m fearful and I use it to go to school. I have my own home so I can’t do without home care. Without it, I would be placed in a nursing home. It’s much cheaper to have us live on our own and have a life of dignity.”
The Republican’s budget would raise the program’s minimum eligibility or “Determination of Need” (DON) score from 29 to 37.
As groups made their way into Spring- field, the first stop was the Executive Mansion where parents, children and senior adults descended off the coach buses. Holding up a clothes line of infant onesies that read, ‘Rauner’s Cuts Aren’t Fair’ that stresses the reality of child care cuts to parents and children affected by the new fiscal year applications. As state police approached the protestors from hanging the line on the gates of the Executive Mansion, Illinois Department of Corrections jail mates tended the Governor mansion’s front lawn in their orange onesies. A variety of faces from young parents, to African-American elders and small Hispanic children stood in front chatting, “We got to live too!”
SEIU Vice President Jaquie Algee said, “We do not want workers displaced that tell the truth.”
Soon after, additional police officers arrived on the scene, forcing protestors to board the buses transporting them to the State Fair where Governor Rauner was scheduled to speak. Arriving in a caravan of coach buses on the fairgrounds, many attended thought they would have access through the back entrance leading directly to the area in which the Governor was scheduled to appear. This was not to be as Illinois State troopers were immediately pre-alerted to the slew of protestors making their way over to the area. Protestors were met with state fair managers and officers and not allowed to enter until after the Governor’s program ended. As the warm temperatures climbed to 80 degrees, separating the crowd was a dirt and a man-made mote with signs held high and loud voices chatting above the music inside of the event.
Shortly after the protestors arrived, Governor Rauner drove through the fair ground entrance on his highly buffed black Harley motorcycle, leading a 20-motorcycle caravan of riders trailing behind him. Ignoring the crowd of protestors, he got off the Harley, smiled and waved to the television cameras and in gesture that most of the protestors have seen before—turned his back on the crowd and entered the fair grounds.
Upset at how the Governor’s entered made attendee Dawn Shannon even more upset at his disregard to how these cuts will affect people close to her.
“I have a mom who is a senior. I was invited to be out here with the seniors and the young people protesting Rauner’s cuts. The biggest connection is that I’m going to be a senior one day,” Shannon said. “All of these cuts are going to affect me in less than six years. Is the system going to turn around all of these cuts that he’s making right now?” Shannon’s biggest fear is that it will be too late to revert the damage that is made if a budget is not passed in time.
She adds, “Ask the average senior when they go to the state and ask for food stamps, they give seniors $16. Can you eat off of $16 on a month because you’re a dollar over the income bracket to qualify? What kind of mess is that? Is the Governor’s kids affect- ed by this?”
Not everyone is anti-Rauner in the Black community, as a group of ‘grassroots’ organizers rode with Pastor Corey Brooks to Springfield on the same day to support the Governor’s efforts in placing key Black leaders to chair committees. Some would argue that these cuts are necessary to balance the budget as the current deficit was left for Rauner to clean up.
State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) introduced a bill that would roll back Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new eligibility requirements to the Child Care Assistance Program, where it advanced to the full Sen- ate on a 6-3 vote.
What does this mean for many parents that qualify but are on hold? There are grandparents that may continue to qualify to be paid as a child care provider to assist parents when they go to work or attend school. Under Governor Rauner’s new eligibility requirements, grandparents do not receive compensation for this provision. As of now, all funds are put on hold when many suburban and Catholic schools have begun their new school year, and Chicago area schools will start on Aug. 31.
Chante Morrison, a former deli worker at Wal-Mart in Galesburg, Illinois had to quit because she kept calling off from work because of unreliable childcare support. “I made over $6 an hour and I was denied childcare from the program. I was making $1100 per month and you can only make $838 a month so had to quit because I couldn’t afford a babysitter,” she said. Morrison has a seven year old who relatives keep, but her other child has a medical condition that requires higher maintenance. She said, “The State should at least change the rules of the program, because it’s affect- ing me and other people who need to work.”
The level of support speaks volumes in each area of social services. It’s not an entitlement thing; it’s a real support system to provide our residents assistance. It hits home for many of us as we either build a better life through the workplace, attending school or finding dignity in aging gracefully— these programs are important.
As a former private duty nurse, Stephanie Barrett was injured in a fire and over the years, home care assistance provides the in- dependence and support she need without the financial burden of a nursing home.
“I disapprove of what Rauner said about all of us seniors, and he doesn’t give a darn about us. He should, because we will keep coming to speak our minds until he change things around for us. Give us what we need,” Barrett said, “He’s a rich man so he can do whatever he wants but we’re not rich. We didn’t ask for this, we didn’t ask for these conditions that we’re in but we are in them.”