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Elderly program in trouble

‘We can’t work for free,’ Tri-County CEO says

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

ROCK FALLS – A program that helps the elderly in the Sauk Valley could be in jeopardy.

The state is behind by more than $1 million in payments to the Tri-County Opportunities Council, which runs the homemaker program in Whiteside, Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties.

The state Department of Aging is running out of money for the program. Without a supplemental appropriation, Tri-County would have to stop services and lay off employees, said Terri Lawrence, the organization’s CEO.

“We can’t work for free,” she said.

The program helps about 560 senior citizens in the four counties with tasks such as getting their groceries, taking them to the doctor and preparing meals. The program has 150 full- and part-time employees.

“The staff has a lot of fear. They are walking a tightrope. Things aren’t good because the state is so far behind,” Lawrence said. “No decisions have been made.”

All Illinois counties have the homemaker program. Some providers are better able to weather the difficulties because they operate in other states, where payments are on time, Lawrence said.

Sandra Julifs, who retired last month as Tri-County’s longtime CEO, said people should contact their state representatives and senators about getting funding for the homemaker program.

“I can’t imagine they would allow all these seniors to go without service,” she said. “A lot of them would have to go to nursing homes. That could be considerably expensive.”

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