Catholic Conference of Illinois Executive Director Robert Gilligan today warned lawmakers the social services safety net is being destroyed by the state budget impasse.
Gilligan was joined by Stephanie Johnson, director of government relations for Catholic Charities of Chicago, in testifying before members of the Illinois House Human Services Appropriations Committee on the absence of a state budget since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2015.
"The safety net is being shredded, and it will not be mended," Gilligan said.
Catholic Charities of Chicago contracts with the state to provide in-home services to the elderly through the Community Care Program. Catholic Charities workers provide such services to more than 25,000 senior citizens as getting groceries, doing laundry, fixing meals and helping them to bathe and get dressed. These services help the elderly to live an independent life in their own home for as long as possible.
Gilligan told lawmakers that 80 percent of the elderly clients Catholic Charities cares for will end up in a nursing home if the Community Care Program is not funded. That will cost the state even more, he said, as the program costs about $3,000 to $5,000 per person per year. A nursing home can cost at least $30,000 per person per year.
Because the governor and lawmakers have not agreed on a budget, Catholic Charities of Chicago is owed $18 million by the state as of today, but that number changes weekly, and has reached as high as $25 million. Catholic Charities in the dioceses of Joliet and Springfield also are owed money by the state for homeless prevention programs, which keep a roof over families heads when an unexpected major expense arises.
Gilligan told lawmakers his concern extends beyond Catholic Charities to that of the entire social services safety net for the poor and vulnerable, as smaller agencies have closed across the state in the past months.
"Closed programs will not be re-built because the social infrastructure has been destroyed," he said.