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Photos: Senior Citizens Shut Down Michigan Avenue To Protest Budget Cuts

By aaroncynic in News on Aug 24, 2015 9:40PM

Nearly two dozen were arrested for shutting down traffic on Michigan Avenue along the Magnificent Mile Monday morning at a protest demanding Gov. Bruce Rauner pass a budget that protects social services from cuts.

Hundreds assembled near the Tribune Tower and quickly marched to the intersection of Michigan and Indiana avenues, where dozens blocked traffic for about 30 minutes in front of the offices of 7wire Ventures, an investment firm owned by top tier Rauner donor Glen Tullman.

“I worked hard all my life, raised three kids and took early retirement to be ensured a stable income” said Jessie Abraham of the Jane Adams Senior Caucus, a group that helped lead the demonstration, part of a series of “Moral Monday’s,” which activist groups have used to draw attention to the human impact of the budget impasse.

Abraham, who is on Medicaid and obtains a reduced fare for public transportation—two items which have been targeted for trimming by Rauner—told the crowd she, like many other seniors, depend on those services. “It is immoral to try to balance the budget on the backs of lower income people and seniors,” said Abraham.

Anne Marie Cunningham, another member of the Jane Adams Senior Caucus, said that she, along with many other seniors who reside in an independent living facility like her, are facing the loss of necessary services.

“There are people who need meals on wheels, physical therapy, home health nurses, the pace bus - these things are all going to be cut,” said Cunningham, who is 78. She suffers from severe osteoarthritis and relies on a housekeeper to take care of things she can’t do for herself, she added. “This budget is not for the people, it’s for the 1 percent.”

While state workers and some social service agencies are still receiving money, many other agencies and social service providers are hurting because of the budget impasse. Recently, the Department of Aging notified agencies providing home care services that they will not reimburse for services to seniors under the Illinois’ Community Care Program.

Rauner’s office once again blamed House Speaker Michael Madigan for the cuts. In a statement released to WGN, the Governor’s office said:

“The Governor has tried to negotiate on critical reforms to free up resources to help the most vulnerable and pass a balanced budget, but unfortunately, the Speaker continues to block those reforms at the expense of the most vulnerable and the middle class.”

This was the 8th “Moral Monday” demonstration in Chicago, a series of protests held every other week led by a coalition of religious leaders demanding the state pass a budget that protects social services funded by revenue options. Organizers say they chose to shut down the intersection in front of Tullman’s company office because he donated $250,000 to Rauner. The group has targeted top Rauner donors in previous demonstrations, including Sam Zell and Ken Griffin.

“No one gives something for nothing,” said Cunningham. “Those of us on this street, we don’t’ have someone doing that for us. We don’t have anyone lobbying for the poor or the working poor.”