Agency about to shut down as state funds lag

March 23, 2010 4:34:57 AM PDT
The state's $13 billion budget deficit has devastated many local agencies, including a home care agency that may have to close Wednesday if it doesn't get state funding.

Social service agencies in Illinois have been dipping into their reserve funds or taking out loans to make payroll as the state has lagged behind for months in making payments.

Since last July, the public has been hearing how health care, child care and senior service agencies are barely staying afloat. But now we're hearing about some going under. One here in Chicago says it may have to shut down this week.

Justin Pulaski, 67, says Ruthie Daily is his lifeline. As a homecare health provider, Ruthie cleans the kitchen once a week and does all the other chores that the former Chicago cab driver can no longer do because of severe arthritis. Without her, Pulaski says he probably couldn't keep living on his own.

"It'd be living hell. I probably end up going into a nursing home or something," said Pulaski.

"It's important because most of them feel comfortable in their own home. If they go to a nursing home, they seem to die quick," said Daily.

Pulaski and Daily have much to be concerned about because the private agency he depends on and she works for says it may have to shut down this week. Family Home Service says without an emergency payment of $200,000 from the state by Wednesday, it will have no choice but to close, laying off all 240 workers, and leaving 550 seniors in Chicago without help.

"It has me absolutely terrified," said Justin.

The Chicago chapter of the American Association for Retired People says Illinois now owes a total of $6 billion to social service providers.

Hundreds of private agencies have tapped dry their reserve funds. Many have laid off workers. Some have already closed and Gerardo Cardenas of AARP predicts without a small miracle in Springfield, many more are to follow. He says if more seniors like Pulaski wind up in nursing homes, the state will wind up paying much more.

"It's three times more expensive for the state to provide care in nursing home than it is for same individual if they stay if they stayed at home," said Cardenas.

The Illinois Department on Aging says it has asked the comptroller's office to come up with emergency funding for Family Home Service.The executive director of the agency tells ABC7 he has depleted his own personal savings to keep it going until now.