5/1/2007

FY08 Illinois Budget

Governor Blagojevich made an unprecedented expansion of funding for Centers for Independent Living in Illinois in his FY '08 Budget proposal. This $2 million infusion of funding will allow many CILs to more effectively serve their catchment areas by opening satellite offices. The budget proposal also includes a $42 million increase for Home Services, driven by a $1.00 increase for personal assistants effective August 1, 2007. This investment will tremendously increase the quality of life of thousands of Illinoisans with disabilities.

Federal Budget Update

While the President's budget for VR may have been dead on arrival, it is worth noting that it included an elimination of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) mandatory increment as well as Projects with Industry, Supported Employment, and Migrant Grants. The good news is that the budget being considered by the likes of Senator Edward Kennedy includes the reinsertion of the CPI as well as an additional $100 million nationally for transition.

Kilbury Visits Illinois Congressional Delegation

While attending the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) Spring Conference in Bethesda, MD April 23-25, Rob Kilbury met with the staff of Senators Durbin and Obama; staff who work for Congresspersons Danny Davis and Judy Biggert, who sit on the Education and Labor Committee in the House; and Jan Schakowsky's staff. Kilbury talked about the experience with the Illinois VR Program, what his colleagues would like to see in the Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, and funding for transition as well as the restoration of the CPI increase for Vocational Rehabilitation.

As a follow-up to these visits, Kilbury sent this correspondence to the Illinois Congressional Delegation following his meeting with them. He encourages all community partners to send similar letters to the delegation.

"I just wanted to take a couple of minutes and thank you all for taking the time to meet with me earlier this week in Washington concerning the state-federal Vocational Rehabilitation program. I thought I would take a minute more of your time and try to reinforce some of the points I tried to make Tuesday:

  1. The DHS Division of Rehabilitation Services is urging members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) this year. If that is not possible, we would support taking Title IV (the Rehabilitation Act) out and just reauthorizing this piece of the law this year.
  2. We urge the delegation to restore the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase which was eliminated when President Bush introduced his '08 Budget. The restoration of the CPI would mean an additional $3-5 million for Illinois to keep up with the increasing costs of doing business.
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation nationally needs additional funding for the purpose of complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act. In order to meet the transition needs of students exiting the special education system, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) is advocating for an additional $200 million for this purpose. Even a $100 million increase would mean an additional $5 million or so for Illinois students with disabilities. Nothing predicts going to work more directly than a successful work experience as a youth. . .
  4. The President's Budget also eliminated line item funding for Projects with Industry, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Grants, and Supported Employment. DRS urges the delegation to restore these important program lines at their previous funding levels.
  5. Funding for the CPI and additional resources for transition will allow the VR Program to more effectively serve individuals with significant disabilities returning from the war in Iraq. For every individual soldier who has died in Iraq, it is estimated that there are 18 casualties. These military personnel will desperately need Vocational Rehabilitation's help once they receive physical rehabilitation and are interested in returning to work. Interestingly, this is the reason our program began in 1918 as the Soldier's Rehabilitation Act.
  6. Finally, we also support dedicated funding for the infrastructure costs associated with operating one-stop employment centers. Currently costs associated with these activities come from resources that would otherwise be used to serve VR Customers directly."

2007 Expo Independence

The Illinois Assistive Technology Program's (IATP) 2007 Expo Independence will be held on May 14 (9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.) and May 15 (8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. This free event, which will be held in conjunction with the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities 23rd Annual Conference, is the largest exposition of assistive technology vendors and service providers in central and southern Illinois. People with disabilities, family members, service providers, educators, seniors, as well as staff from state, non-profit, and advocacy organizations are invited to attend the expo and talk with vendors, try out devices, and learn about services.

DHS/DRS Hosts Successful Disability Option Workshops

Dan Dickerson, Manager of the Disability Recruitment Program with the DHS Bureau of Recruitment and Selection, joined with DRS staff to conduct a number of workshops in April to help job seekers with disabilities understand the Successful Disability Option for applying for state jobs. For more information about this very important initiative, contact Dan at 217-782-9842 (Voice); 1-866-211-4895 (TTY).

Joan Forney Honored by Illinois State University

Joan Forney, former Superintendent of the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) and current acting Superintendent of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI), has received the Distinguished Alumnae Award from Illinois State University. Forney's career spans over 39 years and includes service as a public school teacher, college professor, and administrator. After retiring as ISD Superintendent in June 2006, she assumed the role of acting Superintendent of ISVI in November 2006 and has brought the same level of leadership, enthusiasm, and commitment to ISVI. DRS congratulates Ms. Forney for her tireless hard work, her role as a powerful advocate, and her ongoing dedication to working with children and youth with disabilities!

ISVI Hosts 10th Annual Summer Camp

ISVI will host its 10th Annual Summer Camps during the week of June 17-23, 2007. Young people between the ages of 7-20 who are visually impaired are eligible to participate in the free summer camps. Four week-long camps, which will be held simultaneously on the ISVI campus, will focus on: "Living Independently," "Technology for Today," "Fine Arts Appreciation," and "Young Explorers." For more information about the camps or to receive application materials, please contact ISVI (217/479-4400 V; 217/479-4415 TTY) or visit the school's website at www.isvi.net.