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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

EEOC Issues 2015 Updated Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance

PRESS RELEASE | June 25, 2015
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Updates Reflect Recent Young v. UPS Supreme Court Decision
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an update of its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (Guidance), along with a question and answer document and a fact sheet for small businesses.  All are available on the EEOC's website at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/enforcement_guidance.cfm.
The updates to the Guidance are limited to several pages about the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Young v. UPS, issued in March 2015. The updated Guidance reflects the Supreme Court's conclusion that women may be able to prove unlawful pregnancy discrimination if the employer accommodated some workers but refused to accommodate pregnant women. The Court explained that employer policies that are not intended to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy may still violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) if the policy imposes significant burdens on pregnant employees without a sufficiently strong justification.    
The decision in Young does not affect most of the July 2014 EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues and therefore the following topics remain the same:
  • the PDA's application to current, past, and potential pregnancy;
  • termination or refusal to hire someone because she is pregnant and other prohibited employment actions based on pregnancy;
  • application of the PDA to lactation and breastfeeding;
  • prohibition of forced leave policies;
  • the obligation to treat women and men the same with respect to parental leave policies; and
  • access to health insurance. 
The Court's opinion did not address the effect of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 on workers with pregnancy-related impairments. Therefore that discussion in the Guidance also remains the same. The Guidance notes that, "Changes to the definition of the term 'disability' resulting from enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 make it much easier for pregnant workers with pregnancy-related impairments to demonstrate that they have disabilities for which they may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA."  
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov

National study finds Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and those in Wheelchairs Face Discrimination in Rental Housing Market

PRESS RELEASE | June 25, 2015
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

National study finds deaf, hard of hearing, and those in wheelchairs told about fewer homes

WASHINGTON – Well-qualified homeseekers who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as homeseekers who use wheelchairs, are told about fewer available housing units than comparable homeseekers who can hear and walk, according to a new study released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute.  Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs finds that people who are deaf or who use wheelchairs are at a statistically significant disadvantage when it comes to the number of homes they are informed about.

“Every American deserves the opportunity to secure a home,” said HUD Secretary Juli├ín Castro.  “But the evidence is clear: people who are hearing-impaired or in wheelchairs face unacceptable and unjust discrimination.  HUD will continue to work with our fair housing partners to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities and to promote opportunity for all.” 

Key findings of the report include:
Discrimination against people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • When well-qualified homeseekers who are deaf or hard of hearing contact housing providers and use assistive communication technologies to inquire about recently advertised rental housing, providers are less likely to respond to their inquiries.
  • The extent of apparent discrimination against people who are deaf or hard of hearing varies with the type of communication technology the deaf or hard of hearing tester uses to make contact with housing providers. Housing providers are more resistant to dealing with the older (but still widely used) telephone technologies which have longer communication delays.
  • When they do respond, the housing providers tell homeseekers who are deaf or hard of hearing about fewer available housing options than they tell comparable homeseekers who are hearing.
Discrimination against people who use wheelchairs
  • Well-qualified homeseekers who use wheelchairs are more likely to be denied an appointment to view recently advertised rental housing in buildings with accessible units than comparably qualified homeseekers who are ambulatory.
  • Those who do receive an appointment are less likely than their ambulatory counterparts to be told about and shown suitable housing units.
  • When homeseekers who use a wheelchair ask about modifications that would make the available housing more accessible to them, housing providers agree in most instances. However in approximately a quarter of the requests, housing providers either failed to provide a clear response or explicitly denied modification requests.
The Urban Institute, which conducted the study, employed a “paired testing” methodology in which researchers compared the treatment of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and those who are wheelchair bound, against those who can hear and not wheelchair bound. The paired testing track for people who were deaf or hard of hearing included 1,665 remote telephone tests conducted in a national sample of 168 metropolitan areas that contained more than four-fifths (82%)of the population that is deaf or hard of hearing and that resides in rental housing. The national sample for people who use wheelchairs included 1,259 tests in 30 metropolitan areas containing almost three-quarters (73%) of the population that has a mobility disability and that resides in rental housing.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities.  Discrimination complaints made on the basis of physical and mental disabilities have increased over time to become the largest share of complaints received by federal and local agencies and private fair housing organizations. In FY 2014, disability was the most common basis of complaints filed with HUD and its partner agencies, being cited as a basis for 4,606 complaints, or 54 percent of the overall total. 

Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, whichcan be accessed through Apple devices, such as iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, as well as Android devices.


As Illinois braces for Government Shutdown - 'Moral Monday' Activists Protest Gov. Rauner's Proposed Budget Cuts (VIDEO)

As the budget stalemate in Springfield continues, several grassroots activists and clergy with Fair Economy Illinois participated in an act of civil disobedience during a downtown Chicago protest for "fair share" state revenue options. Progress Illinois provides highlights from the "Moral Monday" demonstration, during which seven protesters were taken into police custody
wonderful article from Progress Illinois; by Ellyn Fortino | June 29, 2015

Seven Illinois activists participated in civil disobedience late Monday afternoon during a Chicago "Moral Monday" protest against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts. 
As part of the protest, a few hundred clergy and grassroots activists with Fair Economy Illinois marched from the Thompson Center to 131 S. Dearborn St., the downtown office building of Citadel LLC. The hedge fund firm's founder and CEO Ken Griffin has given Rauner millions in campaign donations.  
Seven protesters, including five religious leaders, were taken into Chicago police custody after refusing to leave the Citadel building lobby, where they held up a banner reading, "Rauner/Griffin. Fair Budget Now! No Cuts! Tax the Rich!"
Chicago police news affairs could not immediately confirm whether formal arrests were made during the protest.
During the demonstration, activists chanted, "Love thy neighbor as thyself. Tax the rich and share the wealth." They also staged a "die-in" outside the Citadel building while the seven protesters were being put into police vehicles. 
"The main message today is that we have a choice here in Illinois between cutting critical services for our fellow citizens, or we can actually raise revenue from those who are doing the most well-off -- the top 1 percent and corporations," said protester Drew Rindfleisch, pastor at San Lucas United Church of Christ in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. 
Here's scenes from today's 'Moral Monday' protest, posted at YouTube by Progress Illinois:

The protest took place amid an ongoing stalemate between Democratic leaders and Rauner over a budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The state government will begin to shut down if a new budget is not adopted by July 1.
In the 2016 fiscal year, the state faces a $6 billion budget deficit, due mostly to the rollback of the 2011 temporary income tax hike. Democrats want to see that budget hole closed with a combination of cuts and new revenues. Rauner -- whose fiscal plan calls for no new revenues and proposes deep cuts to a range of programs and services -- vetoed most of the Democrat-passed legislative budget proposal last week due to its $4 billion shortfall. Rauner did sign a budget bill for K-12 and early childhood education. 
The governor wants "structural reforms" adopted, like workers' compensation changes, tort reform and a property tax freeze, before new revenues are considered. Democrats, however, have described Rauner's proposals as extreme and consider them to be non-budgetary issues.
To avoid deep budget cuts, Fair Economy Illinois is advocating for "fair-share" revenue solutions, including a graduated income tax, a financial transaction tax and the closure of corporate tax "loopholes." 
"We're facing massive cuts across the board to education, health care, social services, and these cuts are entirely unnecessary," said Fair Economy Illinois leader Toby Chow. "This is a wealthy state. The problem is that the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few ... If we tax those who can afford to pay more, the wealthy and large corporations who are very profitable, then there's more than enough money to not just support existing programs, but to even expand them."
With a government shutdown looming, Rindfleisch said people who depend on state services are concerned.
"Folks are going to lose their homeless shelters. They're gonna lose critical services around youth programs that make sure kids aren't on the streets," he said of the potential impacts of a government shutdown. "This is life and death for a lot of people."
Earlier this month, "Moral Monday" activists staged a similar protest against state budget cuts to critical programs. Seven people were arrested and another 20 were issued citations during that protest, which targeted the downtown office of billionaire investor and Rauner ally Sam Zell.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Former Owner of Ezcor Medical Supply Sylvia Walter-Eze, Sentenced to Prison for $3.5 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, June 29, 2015
Former Owner of Medical Equipment Supply Company Sentenced for $3.5 Million Medicare and Medi-Cal Fraud Scheme
The former owner of Ezcor Medical Supply was sentenced today to serve 97 months in prison for her role in a fraud scheme that resulted in $3.5 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Region, Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Fendrick of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse made the announcement.
Sylvia Walter-Eze, 48, of Stevenson Ranch, California, was found guilty by a federal jury on March 20, 2015, of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, four counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks.  In addition to imposing the term of imprisonment, U.S District Judge R. Gary Klausner ordered Walter-Eze to pay restitution in the amounts of $1,866,260 to Medicare and $73,268 to Medi-Cal.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Walter-Eze, the former owner of Ezcor, a durable medical equipment (DME) supply company located in Valencia, California, fraudulently billed more than $3.5 million to Medicare and Medi-Cal for DME that was not medically necessary.  The trial evidence also demonstrated that Walter-Eze paid illegal kickbacks to patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals.  The evidence further showed that Walter-Eze paid kickbacks to physicians for fraudulent prescriptions for medically unnecessary, and expensive, power wheelchairs, which prescriptions Walter-Eze then used to support her fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal.  The evidence showed that, between 2007 and 2012, Walter-Eze submitted $3,521,786 in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal, and that she received $1,939,529 in reimbursement for those claims.
The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG’s Los Angeles Regional Office and the California Department of Justice, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Blanca Quintero and Alexander F. Porter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged over 2,300 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for over $7 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Team, go to :www.stopmedicarefraud.gov

Driver Taught A "Sticky" Lesson for Parking in Disabled Parking

A Inconsiderate A-Hole driver was taught a lesson in the Southern Brazilian town of Maringa, Thursday (June 25, 2015), after parking in a disabled spot. The driver returned to his car to find the vehicle plastered with thousands of blue and white sticky notes arranged in the International Symbol of Access (ISA). 

The driver attempted to clear the creatively placed stickers from the car's surface as jeering onlookers stood around laughing, many filming the incident. The car owner then attempted to drive off before realising his vision was blocked by the very useful post-its. Angrily removing the sticky notes from his windshield, he drove off, but not before he almost collided with another car.

How State of Illinois Government Shutdown Will Affect Daily Lives

nice article breaking down how the state budget issues will effect our lives in Illinois. 
by Mike Riopell | The Daily Herald | June 28. 2015

Illinois government will keep the lights on Wednesday even if it can't immediately pay the electric bill.

State police will stay on the roads. State parks will stay open for the July 4 holiday. Gambling regulators will keep working, allowing casinos to stay open.

But suburban agencies that care for the disabled, for example, won't get paid by the state for work they do in July until Democratic lawmakers and Rauner end a budget feud that's been boiling since February.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last week vetoed most of the budget sent to him by the Democrat-controlled legislature. When the new budget year starts on Wednesday, Illinois loses its ability to pay for anything.

In addition, the state's contract with its biggest employee union runs out Tuesday, but talks have been extended by a month. If Rauner's office and union leaders don't work things out soon, a strike or lockout is eventually possible.

Though few people will feel immediate effects, pressure will start to mount midmonth as the July 15 payroll approaches, vendors start sending bills that can't be paid and agencies that care for the poor and disabled start reducing services because they don't know when it will end.

"The longer this plays out, the worse it's going to be," said Kim Zoeller, CEO of Lisle-based Ray Graham Association.

Many nonprofits that have contracts with the state keep little cash on hand, so the length of Illinois' budget fight will be critically important. Some can operate for a while without payment, knowing money will be coming eventually. Other, smaller organizations could start having trouble sooner.

Illinois has long had a large backlog of bills for such services and can keep paying the ones that have piled up since April, May, June or earlier, helping them with cash flow.
Rauner's administration will keep state workers on the job. In the suburbs, that means youth prisons in Warrenville and St. Charles will keep running for the duration. 

Expenses -- payroll, food for prisoners, medical bills -- will be paid for eventually once a budget deal is reached. But not before.

Elsewhere, "the state police will continue our mission," Master Sgt. Matt Boerwinkle said.

"I have heard nothing but business as usual," Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea said.

Rauner already has signed Democrats' education spending plan, ending the threat of schools not opening their doors in August. Eliminating that point of pressure could open the door for a protracted state shutdown.

Even though the state won't have legal authority to pay most salaries beginning Wednesday, a court order could eventually force Comptroller Leslie Munger to cut the checks anyway, removing another pressure point that would encourage officials to cut a deal quickly.

Such stopgaps won't relieve local caretakers of uncertainty, though. Zoeller says her agency likely will cut respite services for 350 families of disabled people on Wednesday if there's no budget agreement.

She said her group and others like it just don't know if money for the program eventually will be available. Rauner's original budget plan wiped out money for respite, a program that helps care for disabled children while their parents take care of daily tasks.Democrats' budget put some of the money back, but it was vetoed.

Zoeller said Ray Graham can't spend money it might not ever recoup from the state. And until Rauner inks a budget that lawmakers have sent him, she won't know for sure how much money is coming.

"It's holding people with disabilities and their families hostage," she said.

The standoff arose after Democrats sent Rauner a budget that was more than $3 billion in the red and he vetoed most of it. Some top Democrats argue state taxes need to be raised to cover expenses after a drop in the state income tax rate from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals earlier this year. Rauner wants lawmakers to approve parts of his pro-business agenda -- including a two-year property tax freeze -- before he'll talk about tax increases.

"Despite the fact (House Speaker Michael) Madigan and the politicians he controls have left the state of Illinois in flux by passing an unbalanced budget the governor was forced to veto, Gov. Rauner will manage state government as efficiently as possible while working toward reforming state government and passing a balanced budget," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said.

Democrats have scheduled a hearing for Tuesday about the effects of a shutdown.

"Too often do the politicians proposing irresponsible cuts forget that there are real human faces behind the budgetary numbers and lives that will be forever changed by careless decisions," Democratic state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates said.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Illinois Budget Update and Call-In Meeting July 7th

as shared by Illinois Partners for Human Service.

Call-In Meeting scheduled for Monday, July 6th at 2:00 p.m. has been RESCHEDULED for TUESDAY, JULY 7th at 2:00 p.m.

Illinois Partners for Human Service
Illinois Partners: 

Yesterday Governor Rauner vetoed 19 of the 22 budget bills including all the human service appropriations bills. The General Assembly will be in session next Tuesday but it is unlikely that they will be prepared to pass a new budget or to take action on the Governor's legislative proposals.

Many of the Human Service State Agencies began issuing contracts though some do not specify funding levels. Other contracts have dollar amounts inserted. Some providers were specifically told regardless of when the budget is signed they will be paid retro-active to July 1st. Other communications clearly state that there is no guarantee they will be paid retro-actively to July 1st. Providers are being told to return their contracts either by end of yesterday or by June 30th

The timing question is one major area of concern: without a passed state budget many areas of human services are not guaranteed payment without the appropriation authority in place. So how long can one continue to meet payroll and other expenses without receiving payment?

Additionally, even with a signed, agreed budget, there is a very real possibility that the administration will continue to make damaging changes by limiting the ability of individuals to enroll in services or severely curtailing them altogether. (These are policy changes!) 

If you have a current contract and did not receive notification in writing about the status of the program, you will need to request in writing from the State agency, confirmation that they want you to continue to provide services and the rate at which that will be provided. You should assume that, absent a contract that states that it is effective beyond July 1, 2015, your program is no longer being funded by the state.

Next steps in advocacy:  

1) Email Judith information about those contracts which have been renewed and those which have not been as of Monday evening so that we can better talk about the impact statewide.    
2) Email information about the stress of delayed payments due to the budget impasse.  
3) Keep your voice strong about the impact of cutting human services and the impact of the budget impasse on human service organizations by meeting with your local leaders, writing letters to the editor, speaking with local business leaders and community leaders!  Please email Judith the outcomes of this outreach!  

We have successes: last week's statewide call with Representative Patti Bellock and Senator Daniel Biss led to clarity in some of the State contracts about payments being retroactive to July 1st in the event of a continued budget impasse and at least ten Illinois Partners' members have been quoted in the press including Judith in the Chicago Tribune. Thank you!!!


Tuesday, July 7th at 2:00 p.m. Comptroller Munger will join us.
Please send any questions for the Comptroller to Judith@illinoispartners.org 
by close of business Wednesday July 1st so that we can pass them along before the holiday weekend. 

 Call-In Information:
  • 877-475-9088 
  • 896-105-1154   
Thank you for all you are doing.  Please keep letting us know what your plans are beginning July 1st

With appreciation, 
Judith Gethner, Executive Director 


nice article by Lecia Imbery | Coalition on Human Needs | June 26, 2015

Fewer than 1 in 4 low-income households who qualify for housing assistance receives it due to lack of funds, but that didn’t stop the House of Representatives from cutting housing assistance even more. Earlier this month, the House passed its spending bill covering the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the next fiscal year (the bill also covers that Department of Transportation). Not only would the bill fail to restore the 67,000 vouchers lost by the 2013 sequester cuts, it fails to provide enough money to renew 28,000 existing housing choice vouchers.
Resources from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition lay out some of the other major problems with this bill: it would cut the HOME program and the public housing capital program below current levels. As we noted in a recent Human Needs Report article, it also takes all of the money slated for the National Housing Trust Fund, which would invest in additional rental housing for low-income tenants. When compared to the President’s budget, it would cut homeless assistance grants, which would deny services and housing to 15,000 families or individuals either homeless or at-risk of homelessness, and support 25,500 fewer units of permanent supportive housing. The Senate version of the bill slashes the HOME program, cutting its funding from an FY15 level of $900 million to an FY16 level of $66 million, stopping the production of 40,000 affordable housing units.
All of this means less assistance for those who need it, even though too few are being helped already. And the need is great. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s new report, Out of Reach, notes that Louisville, Kentucky, has a waiting list of more than 3,000 applicants for public housing and more than 17,000 applicants for a housing voucher. When Baltimoreopened its wait list for the first time in a decade, more than 58,000 people signed up in less than a week, even though fewer than 1,500 vouchers are given out a year. Two years ago, the DC Housing Authority closed its waiting list of nearly 70,000 applicants when the average wait time for a studio apartment was 39 years and 28 years for a one-bedroom unit.
Last week, we called for a full court press to end these cuts and the too-tight sequestration spending levels that are hurting Americans all across the country. The White House has put out state-by-state numbers highlighting how many people in each state would lose things like housing vouchers and access to full-time, year-round Head Start, job training and health care coverage in each state in the House plan. These fact sheets are a great tool advocates can use to get the word out about the all-too-real impacts Congress’s cuts and continued sequestration will have in your community.
People we talk with in the Administration and Congress have strongly urged us to begin speaking out now to better secure funding for human needs programs. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to speak out in ways that will get in the press, to heighten awareness of the real problems sequestration is causing and to send a message to Congress that there is a better path.
So write a Letter to the Editor or a press releaseand use blogs and social media to speak out against proposed cuts. And if you or someone you know is interested in authoring an op-ed (great potential authors include key staff or board members of social service agencies, local business leaders, faith leaders, people who have benefited from services or who are waiting to get needed services, physicians serving low-income communities, educators, and labor or advocacy organization leaders), let us know via the comment section below or by emailing kwilkins@chn.org. We have materials to help with that, too.
Stay tuned to our Voices for Human Needs blog and our Human Needs Report for more information on Congress’s work on appropriations and details on their recently-released spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.Subscribing to the blog is the best way to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.
For the  Coalition on Human Needs, visit: http://www.chn.org/

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Illinois Baseball Field for People with Disabilities Opens "Uncle Bill's Miracle Field"

Officially named Uncle Bill's Miracle Field — for league founder, the late Bill Wright — the field will host its first baseball games for Miracle League of Central Illinois players on Saturday afternoon.
photo: DAVID PROEBER, The Pantagraph
as reported by pantagraph.com | by Paul Swiech | June 24, 2015
NORMAL — Uncle Bill's dream will become reality on Saturday for 82 people who use wheelchairs or walkers, are sight- or hearing-impaired or have a developmental disability.
"It's pretty emotional for me to go out there to see dad's dream come true," said Mike Wright of Bloomington.
His father — the late Bill Wright, who owned Uncle Bill's Self Storage in Normal — founded Miracle League of Central Illinois in 2009 to allow children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities play baseball.
His dream was for the league and its players to have their own field made of a synthetic surface to make it easier for all players — especially those who use wheelchairs, walkers and canes — to get around.
Uncle Bill's Miracle Field opens at noon Saturday behind The Corn Crib, 1000 W. Raab Road, Normal. Miracle League games are scheduled for 1 and 2:30 p.m.
"Bill's vision is finally going to happen and it's so exciting," said league board member and volunteer coordinator Tracy Patkunas.
"This will make it easier for kids in wheelchairs and walkers to get around," said league player Abbie Knudsen, 10, of Bloomington, who is blind in her left eye and has limited vision in her right eye.
"I think it's pretty awesome," said her twin brother, Tommie, a player who has cerebral palsy and autism.
Bill Wright died in 2012.
"He would have been so excited," said Mike Wright, a league board member. "My sister (Amy Wright, 47) has disabilities. You go through a lot of struggles. But I see the dream coming true for Amy and all the players."
In Miracle League, baseball rules are altered to ensure games are fun. The biggest difference is that each player is paired with a buddy.
For example, Tommie bats one-handed and runs wearing a leg brace, but can't catch a ball. So his buddy catches it for him and then hands the ball to Tommie to throw in, explained his mother, Tera Knudsen.
Abbie bats with the help of a buddy using a tee or a ball that emits sound. Abbie runs with a sight cane and tries to catch ground balls, but her buddy catches fly balls for her.
"We were looking four years ago for something sports-related that they could participate in," Tera Knudsen said. "We heard about Uncle Bill's, watched one game and the kids fell in love with it. Knowing that they can participate is an amazing feeling for them. They're always asking when it's going to be Sunday."
"I think the Miracle League is a good thing to do for kids who are handicapped," Abbie said.
"It's a good experience," Tommie said.
Games had been played at a McLean County PONY Baseball field near the airport and games so far this summer were to be played at Fairview and Shepard parks, Wright said. But rain and wet conditions mean that Saturday will be opening day for the season.
Heartland Community College provided land for the new field north of The Corn Crib. The field, a fence, scoreboard, bleachers and a sidewalk leading to the field have cost $500,000, Wright said. Donations came from a variety of places, including $150,000 from State Farm.
Wright hopes to raise another $75,000 to $100,000 for restrooms and a concession area.
But now the focus is on Saturday.
"Dad would have been so excited for the kids and the parents," Wright said. "Amy will throw out the first ball.
"For me, the lesson of this is you can make a difference if someone is willing to have a dream first."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Illinois Budget Cuts - Mental Health, Disability Services In Jeopardy For 26,000 Illinoisan Citizens

TY to All for sharing nice article published by the Illinois Observer!

Posted by: IO News Staff on June 24, 2015(Chicago) – The failure of Illinois state leaders to adopt a new budget has prompted service shutdown planning for nearly 26,000 mentally ill adults and children.

“Without a budget or clear direction from state agencies, the consequences will be severe,” Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (IARF) President and CEO Janet Stover said on Tuesday. “Tens of thousands will lose service, and thousands more will be sent to the unemployment line as these predominately not-for-profit organizations struggle to stay afloat.”

A survey of community service providers by Stover’s trade association estimates that 25,812 individuals with developmental disabilities and/or serious mental illnesses will gradually begin to lose or to experience a reduction in community-based services after July 1 with no fiscal year 2016 state budget in place by June 30.

IARF also estimates employee layoffs will top 5,000.
“Nearly 43% of our ID/DD service provider members and 34% of our mental health provider members have projected they will need to terminate services to clients and lay off staff,” Stover said.

They IARF survey identified five categories where care would be ended or reduced:
  • 3,050 individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities will lose access to or experience reduced services through grant funded programs such as respite, dental services, epilepsy, and the Autism Program of Illinois.
  • 6,669 individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities will lose access to or experience reduced services through Medicaid waiver funded programs, such as group homes, developmental training, and home-based services and supports.
  • 324 adults with severe and profound intellectual/developmental disabilities will lose access to 24-hour active treatment.
  • 7,611 adults with serious mental illnesses will lose access to or experience reduced services through grant funded programs such as psychiatry, care coordination, crisis, supervised, and supported residential services and housing.
  • 906 adults with serious mental illnesses will lose access to or experience reduced evidence-based community mental health Medicaid services and supports.
Meanwhile, Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary James Dimas on Tuesday notified community providers that state contract renewals will be sent out by the end of the week, but not every agency will receive a renewal, contract amounts may be modified, and actual payment will be halted after July 1.

“Some Providers and programs will be issued a CSA (Community Service Agreement) for this year, but some will not,” Dimas wrote in a June 23 letter to providers. “For those that do receive a CSA for this year, the very real possibility remains that either: (i) the amount and availability of the grant will be modified, or (ii) payments to your organization will not begin until the fiscal situation is resolved.”

Dimas also warned that any services provided by those agencies that receive no contract will receive no approval for payment.

“For those organizations or programs with which IDHS is unable to enter into a CSA at this time, no payment will be approved for any activities performed on or after July 1, 2015,” Dimas wrote.

Dimas also gave no hint about when a resolution of the budget stalemate between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled legislature might be achieved.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty as to both when, and at what amount, funds will be made available for this coming year,” Dimas noted.

Stover, however, warned that the budget uncertainty has forced community providers to begin preparing shutdown plans, plans that are mandated by law.

“These providers are making decisions now on when they will exhaust reserves and lines of credit and when they will need to inform individuals, families, and the state of termination of services and closures,” said Stover. “These decisions are being planned right now, and we see a very clear timeline of the system dismantling.”

In the meantime, Stover is urging the governor and lawmakers to pull back from the brink and adopt a temporary budget.

“It is long past time for the General Assembly and the Governor to Commit to the Community and reach agreement on an FY16 budget that includes revenue to fully fund community-based services and supports,” Stover said. “While negotiations continue, we urge our government leaders to agree on a temporary budget to ensure the catastrophe we have projected will not occur, individuals and families keep their critical services without interruption, and layoffs are prevented.”

While some Democratic lawmakers are open to the idea of a temporary budget, Rauner, who has launched a two-week, $2 million TV Ad campaign attacking House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) over the stalemate, complicating a budget resolution, has dismissed the idea.

Lawmakers return to Springfield next week.
Meanwhile, today, representatives from 30 local community organizations, who are members of the Responsible Budget Coalition, will rally at the Thompson Center on Wednesday morning at 11:15 a.m. to urge the governor and lawmakers to avoid budget cuts and raise taxes to fill the $6 billion budget hole.

Additionally, on Thursday, lawmakers from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus will hold a rally with community groups at 5071 W. Congress in Chicago highlighting their opposition to Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.


(*Note to Political Insiders: The Illinois Observer also offers our exclusive, subscriber-only e-newsletter – The Insider – to, well, Illinois political insiders. Each Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 a.m. The Insider arrives in e-mail boxes with the choicest Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago political gossip, insider information, and news tips. For more information and a free, 4-week trial subscription to The Insider, please go here).

Illinoisans Speaking Out Across State on Severe Budget Cuts We All Face

The following information was shared by many of our colleagues throughout Illinois. 
The Important Updates from Access Living will continue to link us together throughout Illinois.Please continue to share information as we the disability community in Illinois continue together in this year we all face real budget cuts, and elimination of programs that will effect our independence.

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

This past Monday (06/22), Representative Robin Gabel held a town hall in Evanston with the Center for Independent Futures and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to discuss disability rights. Many people in the audience had questions about the state budget, including whether payments for home care workers and the Home Based Services and Supports program would stop (too early to tell, is the answer).
Also on Monday night, Representative Michelle Mussman hosted a town hall on the budget in Hoffman Estates. Many parents of people with disabilities expressed concerns there.
Last night in Naperville, Senator Mike Connelly and Representative Grant Wehrli held a town hall on the budget cuts that reportedly attracted several hundred people, mostly seniors and people with disabilities.
This morning in Chicago, the Responsible Budget Coalition held an excellent press conference on the impact of possible human service cuts to many providers, who could be forced to reduce hours, lay off staff or close down completely.
This afternoon in Rochelle, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is facilitating a roundtable discussion on the budget cuts and human services.
This evening, Senator Heather Steans, Representative Greg Harris and Representative Kelly Cassidy will hold a town hall at St. Andrew’s from 7 pm to 8:30, at 5649 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago.
TomorrowJune 25, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm is the Community Values Rally hosted by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus at 5071 W. Congress Parkway in Chicago.
Also tomorrowJune 25, Bloomington area disability advocates will host a press conference at 11 am in front of the Old Courthouse at 200 N. Main in Bloomington.
On Monday, June 29, Representative Stephanie Kifowit will hold a Community Meeting on the State Budget inOswego from 6 to 7:30 pm. It will be in the Community Room at Oswego East High School, at 1525 Harvey Road. For more info call 630-585-1308.
Also on Monday June 29, Senator Julie Morrison and Representative Elaine Nekritz will host a community meeting from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Northbrook library, 1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook. For more info call 847-945-5200 or 847-229-5499.
On July 2, Representative Ann Williams will host a town hall on the budget from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Lincoln-Belmont Library, 1659 W. Melrose, Chicago.
Please continue to send me reports of upcoming town halls or press conferences around the state, focusing on the state budget, or events that happened in the last week. Remember that you can check your state senator and state representative’s offices to see if they are having community events. If you do not know your state senator and your state representative, use this link to look them up. It is so important for people with disabilities and seniors to be at these events to represent yourselves, especially with problems like the DON score change, cuts to Chicago paratransit, and other cuts affecting us all around the state. Speak up, speak out.

Let’s go Illinois!
Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living