After a month’s time, the Progress Center for Independent Living – a not-for-profit organization that works to help people with disabilities – has received word from the state that cuts in Springfield will cost the organization $267,000.
Passed in July, the state’s $26 billion budget relies on $3.5 billion in borrowed money and enables the state to fund social services at roughly 86 percent of last year’s level.
The Progress Center, located on Madison, is slated to lose roughly $225,000 in grants from the Illinois Department of Human Services for three core programs. These programs provide personal assistants for home-based care in both English and Spanish speaking households, and a 24-hour call service for people in need of immediate care.
When these programs are eliminated, people in need of assistance will have to call the state for referrals, according to John Jansa, program director for the Progress Center.
“The reality is they’re not going to provide the level of service we do … they can’t,” Jansa said. “They’ve got too much on their plate.”
A 2008 audit shows the Progress Center spent $224,207 on operational expenses for the home services program, Latino home services, and emergency assistance.
Although an audit for 2009 has not yet been completed, Jansa said operational costs only increase slightly from year to year, which means these three programs are almost totally dependent on state money.
In addition to these three grants, the state is also cutting $10,000 from a $56,000 pot of state money for the Community Reintegration Project, which transitions people with disabilities out of nursing homes and puts them back into their own residences.
Another $32,000 in money for general expenses will also be cut.
Priding itself on principles of independence and equality, the Progress Center’s staff consists of many individuals with disabilities. However, due to the cuts, the organization has been forced to eliminate six staff members. The office’s entire annual budget is expected to shrink to about $1 million.
Naketta Kirkland is a Personal Assistance Advocate in charge of recruiting and training people to work in the homes of those with disabilities. The referrals are made on the basis of the consumer’s specific needs and the assistant’s willingness to perform such duties.
Part of the Home Services Team, Kirkland’s last day of paid work will be on Sept. 30, when last year’s contracts for the grants expire. After that date, there will be no money to continue paying her and the five other employees being laid off.
Kirkland, 28, has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic. She also relies on an assistant – one that she sought out through the Progress Center and has had for nine years.
“It affects me because I use the services,” Kirkland said.
“After Sept. 30 I won’t be working here; that means I’m home alone more,” she said. “[And] I’m not OK to go to the bathroom, to cook for myself, etc.”
Kirkland has worked for the agency for three years and is a favorite among consumers.
“She provided me with a good caretaker,” Zabrin Goddrich said.
Goodrich, 37, was in a serious car accident and is now a quadriplegic.
Most importantly, though, “[she] taught me to feel like a person,” Goodrich said.
Mark Karner is the director of advocacy at the center. He oversees the office’s educational and advocacy efforts aimed at raising awareness of disability issues. He also assists and monitors like-minded efforts by individual consumers.
Since 1993, Karner has also been involved in efforts to remove people with disabilities from institutions where they were involuntarily or unnecessarily placed. The state recognized that work as being both cost-efficient and important to the preservation of basic civil rights; and, consequently contacted Karner to launch its own pilot-project in 1997.
In 1998, he was instrumental in establishing state funding for what is now the Progress Center’s Community Reintegration Project.
Karner, 57, has post-polio syndrome and is a quadriplegic. He has worked at the center for 16 years, and he, too, will be losing his job.
“At the age of 41, this was the first job I ever had,” Karner said. “Starting a new career is not a good option.”