Mary and John Schnell testified on Tuesday
 in Springfield about proposed changes
to a state aid. | Becky Schlikerman / Sun-Times

But with proposed cuts to programs that help keep the elderly and people with disabilities at home, the Schnells are worried about their future.

“We’re hoping we can stay together,” Mary Schnell told a joint Senate committee Tuesday.

The Schnells, of Springfield, are among the more than 24,000 seniors who may be affected by the cuts, AARP staffers told senators. Some 10,000 disabled adults would be affected by cuts that seek to increase the score used to determine need, advocates said.

“Presumably as part of the governor’s budget proposal it’s intended to save the state money,” Cheryl Jansen, public policy director for Equip for Equality told senators. “But it’s been shown again and again, and you’ve heard testimony here today, and the state has provided statistics that show that serving people with disabilities in their own homes, in their own communities — rather than institutions — saves money. In the long term, this change will not only cost the state money, it will deprive the individuals served by this program of their independence, of their dignity and of their improved quality of life.”

The issue has come up now after Gov. Bruce Rauner in June announced his administration would increase the determination of need criteria for elderly who rely on the Department of Aging’s Community Care Program. Since then, the administration has taken formal steps to get approval from the federal government to make changes to that program and to programs that serve people with disabilities.

Illinois is focused on rebalancing its system and ensuring that individuals that are receiving State supported services actually need that level of support,” a spokeswoman for the governor said in an email.

Kelly Cunningham, deputy medical administrator for long-term care and mental health services at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, told senators the governor’s proposed budget includes an increase of the threshold needed to receive these services.

For the Schnells, it’s a serious concern.

Mary Schnell, 82, takes care of her husband, which is a 24-hour a day and seven-day a week job, she said.

He goes to adult daycare, and they also have a helper provided by the state that comes to their home and helps with chores and travel around town to doctor appointments and the grocery store.

These services, Mary Schnell said, are crucial.

She said, “Without it, I’m not sure how much longer we can manage and stay in our home.”