By Sabrina Wu
The state budget currently on its way to the governor for his signature will eliminate funding for job coaching for 3,000 people with developmental disabilities who are employed in Illinois. That's the assessment of the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services, according to the Ray Graham Association, which provides services in DuPage County for people with disabilities.
According to Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association, the Division of Rehabilitation Services told RGA that $1 million has been eliminated from the budget for Human Services programs. Included is funding for job-coaching for those with developmental disabilities who are employed.
"The budget that passed allocated about $779 million for Community DD (developmentally disabled) services. That amount is less than what the governor originally proposed, which was going to be devastating enough," said Zoeller. "Our concern is there will not be enough money left over to fund those critical grant programs such as supported employment...That dollar amount that is made available for supported employment, which is a little over $1 million, funds 3,000 people around the state."
Supported employment is funded through the DRS and allows agencies such as RGA to provide job coaches for those with developmental disabilities, in order to help them maintain their jobs. Without it, Zoeller said, those with developmental disabilities would not have the support they need to function in the workplace.
The Ray Graham Association serves more than 2,000 people in DuPage and western Cook counties.
The General Assembly's leadership, which includes Senate President John Cullerton (D-6th, Chicago), House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd, Chicago), Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-41st, Lemont) and House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-84th, Oswego) is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. today to discuss outstanding budget issues. Among the issues is a half-billion dollar amendment that would restore some of the funding cut from Human Services programs.
The Ray Graham Association is asking concerned citizens to contact the offices of the General Assembly leadership to ask them to consider restoring funding for Human Services.
*The Illinois Department of Human Services which oversees the Division of Rehabilitation Services declined to comment for this story.