According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the rent for a one person efficiency apartment may range from 60-140 percent of their Social Security Benefit. In Illinois, 105 percent of Social Security income is needed to pay rent. Social Security can represent the primary source of income for the elderly and disabled.
We can only hope that the upcoming election in November will bring forth elected officials who will create solutions to help the elderly and the disabled.
Are We Going Broke?
Last year my mother received a check with a 50 percent reduction of her Illinois Circuit Breaker Benefit. It is a small grant that is given to seniors who pay property taxes that are also burdened by prescription drug costs. In previous years the check would be issued for $70. Last year it was $35. The reason given was the state budget did not “fund the Circuit Breaker Program at those levels”.
Illinois failed to come through for those needing help. Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that our nation is in the midst of its greatest level of poverty in 15 years. It seems as if there has always been a large gap between the rich and the suppression and poverty of those who are disabled and/or elderly.
Illinois budget crisis has led to many devastating cuts in health and mental health services. Illinois is one of the top ten states to have made the deepest of cuts. The proposed state fiscal budget for 2011 includes a reduction of $52 million from community mental health services, and programs that serve people with developmental disabilities would be reduced by $95 million. $7 million cut from grants for alcohol- and drug-treatment programs and $20 million less for community health and prevention.
One of the larger programs that assist many seniors pay their Part D coverage is known as Illinois Cares Rx. This program serves helps 200,000 seniors statewide. It is proposed to lose $70 million, a 50 percent cut.
In addition, the Community Care program will be cut by $140 million. This takes away help from 825 senior citizens. Governor Quinn has also proposed a 21.7 percent cut in Community Care. This program is essential to seniors who wish to receive care in their own home instead of living in a nursing facility.
Where Do Our Elected Officials Stand?
According to “On the Issues” (www.ontheissues.org), Governor Quinn (Dem) has no stance on record in regards to Social Security. Senator Richard Durbin (Dem) has shown a record of voting to help keep Medicare part D prescription costs and premiums affordable. Roland Burris (Dem) will not be on the team much longer with his appeal to run in the November 2nd special election being rejected.
Rivals for Illinois Senate Mark Kirk (Rep) and Alexi Giannoulias (Dem) will be debating each other on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday October 10, 19 and 27th. It will give Illinois voters a chance to do some comparison shopping before they vote. Mark Kirk has voted on the side of seniors to avoid Medicare cuts and create effective affordable senior prescription plans. I have not been able to find any specific reference on if Alexi Giannoulias has a strategy to help seniors and the disabled although he has expressed the need to stabilize social security to be there for us in the long term.
AARP has created an online form at http://vote4.aarp.org/?cmp=KNC-VOTE&sfr=1286677981648
Voters can look up their candidates to find out exactly where they stand on social security as well as other issues that are important to seniors. Although you will not find AARP writing much written about Green Party Candidate, LeAlan Jones. I had to go digging on my own. I landed on LeAlan’s website (http://lealanforsenate.org/). He states, “For my first day in office, I will champion expanding our treasured Medicare program to everybody in the country. This simple program will control skyrocketing costs, assure access to everyone, and achieve the highest quality our first-rate medical resources can provide.”
“Meet The Press” did not invite Jones in on the debate. How can we really make a decision without seeing all the candidates and hearing their responses on the issues ? I am not sure why we ignore the voices that campaign outside of the Democratic and Republican label. It’s kind of like the definition of insanity; we do the same thing over and over again, hoping to have a different result.
LeAlan Jones has asked for supporters to call “Meet The Press” and allow him to debate with Kirk and Giannoulias. I say that Kirk and Giannoulias should invite him to debate on the same playing field. The media should allow the voters to review all of their choices in a fair manner equally. If “Meet The Press”, won’t allow them on, then maybe one of our local channels like WGN or WTTW will create some couch time. In the very least, maybe a town hall meeting aired on YouTube.
Each candidate should take the time to include in their debates and appearances their platforms on helping seniors and the disabled and consider it as one of their many top priorities.