Caregivers continue to work without salary due to budget crisis

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Larry Street is Robert Hunt's in-home caregiver. Hunt, 73, has severe arthritis. (WLS)

The lack of a state budget in Illinois has taken its toll on some home healthcare employees who have worked without paychecks for months.

Several non-profit agencies rely on state funds to pay their employees and provide vital services to the most vulnerable. One of them is Ashley's Quality Care on the South Side, which provides home care for seniors and the disabled.

Now, Ashley's -- which has operated for 26 years -- can barely stay open. Ninety percent of the agency's funding comes from the state. No budget means no money.

"I've lost a tremendous amount of staff and a tremendous amount of clients. When you can't pay, they can't work," said Frankie Redditt, who owns Ashley's.

Redditt's staff of 60 has been cut to less than 20. Those who remain are working for free.

Among them are Larry Street, who helps Robert Hunt, a 76-year-old with severe arthritis who can no longer live on his own without some help.

"I love the man. I try to do whatever I can to help him," Street said.

Street does the dishes and helps with medication.

"I really need it, I can't do it by myself," Hunt said.

Without Street's help, Hunt would likely wind up in a nursing home which is why Street won't give up on Hunt even though he and all his co-workers at Ashley's Quality Care haven't been paid in months.

"I come in faithfully every day because I know it is no fault of the company and I believe in what we do," said Sheree Ingram, an Ashley's Quality Care field supervisor.

HELP FOR EMPLOYEES

On Wednesday, utility companies ComEd and Peoples Gas came to the agency to help employees work out payment plans. They believe that if the governor and state lawmakers truly understood the impact of the budget impasse, it would have been solved a long time ago.

"They don't know what it is like to take a hardship letter the landlord, to the light company, cable company," said Tony Aiken, a Ashley's homemaker.

Redditt said that even if the state begins paying its bills again, it will be hard for her business to recover since she has already lost so many clients. Her remaining employees say they are loyal to her and don't want to see her shut down.

"You don't see the impact on poor people, you don't feel it, you are up here on one level, down on another level, you will never get to meet these people," Redditt said.

Related Topics:
politicsBruce Raunerillinois budgethealth caredisabilitysenior citizensChicagoSouth Loop
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