AgeOptions is a 40-year-old organization that was created to represent the older population in suburban Cook County, organize services and programs, support community initiatives and advocate on behalf of older adults and the aging network. It is essential that the Illinois pension issue is resolved so that the state may sustain the safety net for vulnerable individuals. We urge the General Assembly to address the impact of automatic budget reductions scheduled to occur every year without a logical solution to the deficits now existing in our state pensions.
The ability of AgeOptions to address our mission is impacted by the support we receive from federal and state program funding. We are unable to meet the needs of older adults and families when resources are reduced or eliminated because of governmental action or inaction. What does this mean? In 2012, we reached more than 234,000 people through competent community-based organizations. That figure will most likely be reduced in 2013 after a 4.5 percent federal sequester. Loss of resources to the aging network will lead to:
- Premature nursing home placement
- Increased malnutrition among homebound older adults
- Decreased safety among older adults and people with disabilities at risk of abuse
- Decreased access to accurate information on aging issues
There are no positive scenarios if Illinois does not curtail the drain on Illinois General Revenues now prescribed by the pension problem.
Although there are a number of issues related to the economic health of Illinois and its capacity to offer compassionate and smart programs to vulnerable citizens, inaction on the public pension situation is the most urgent and immediate driver of the state's priorities and budget. We understand that more than a billion dollars will be cut from the Illinois budget every year if the current pension financing payment policy is not changed.
Inaction on the pension issue automatically results in more than $1 billion in reduced state capacity and puts vital social service programs at risk. We urge our fellow Illinois residents to insist that changes be implemented that respect the dignity of public employees while assuring that essential responsibilities of the state for responsive services and support to the population are met.