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Money mess could leave seniors out in the cold

SPRINGFIELD -- Thousands of seniors around the state rely on a program to help them live on their own instead of in nursing homes.
SPRINGFIELD -- Thousands of seniors around the state rely on a program to help them live on their own instead of in nursing homes. But, the funds for this year are drying up. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels finds out how much time is left before providers run out of money.

The State's Department on Aging says it'll be out of money by Friday. That's a full three-and-a-half months before the new budget kicks in, leaving more than 100,000 seniors and workers to figure out what to do.

"They're scared. 'What's going to happen to us? Will I go?' We get those questions constantly."

Mary Ann Newbern is part of Help at Home. It's one of several state-funded companies taking care of almost 80,000 seniors in the state under a program called Community Care. It lets them live at home instead of nursing homes.

"Everybody's going to grow old. You're going to grow old. I'm going to grow old. Somebody has to take care of us and we've got to take care of them. That's our job."

But, the money is running dangerously thin.

"Everyone's worried. There's nothing to take lightly. The little providers are struggling terribly. Some of them are refusing clients. They are closing their doors."

So, Help at Home is trying to pick up the slack. Right now, the state owes it $85 million. When this year's funding runs out at the end of the week, the backlog will be even bigger, leaving everyone there wondering, what's next?

"We just keep struggling along. We've got to take care of them."

Help at Home says it has no choice and is forced to turn elsewhere to stay afloat.

"Since we're so large, we have other states which are actually paying their bills, and so, sometimes, they take care of the state shortfall we don't receive."

Other states; paying for what Illinois can't, to keep thousands employed and seniors in their own homes. This isn't the first time the state's run out of money early for Community Care. Right now, payments to it are already backed up about six months.
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