Gov. JB Pritzker’s $40 billion budget—passed with bipartisan support—includes a 3.5% rate increase for state-funded community disability agencies and a 5% increase for youth care agencies.
In an extraordinarily challenging time, AFSCME members succeeded in sharing their story and fighting for continued progress for the adults and youth they serve every day. Hundreds of frontline staff at state-funded agencies lobbied their legislators in their home districts and at the State Capitol. They spoke directly to the governor’s office and delivered thousands of postcards to his door.
“We are one step closer to a fair wage for DSPs, paraeducators and other frontline staff at disability and youth care agencies across the state,” said AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch.
* But this is from Kathy Carmody, CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities…
While the FY20 rate increase for community agencies that support people with disabilities is welcome, it’s not enough to impact the workforce crisis affecting agencies that provide community services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that is in full swing across the state. The crisis is one of the key reasons Illinois has been found out of compliance with a Consent Decree overseen by a federal court appointed Monitor for the 3rd year in a row.
Similar to your observation regarding the DCFS budget, consider that when the community residential (CILA) program began in 2000, reimbursement from the state for the average wage (meaning everyone from a first day employee to a 20 year veteran) for direct support workers was 93% higher than minimum wage. This differential was essential and intentional in recognition of the critical role this workforce plays and the distinction between direct support work and minimum wage positions. Today, that differential is only 45%, with agencies in Chicago receiving reimbursement that only matches minimum wage and will fall below minimum wage on 7/1/19. Once minimum wage is increased in 2020, the differential between minimum wage and reimbursement from the state for direct support workers will fall to only 24%; agencies simply cannot compete with other industries that pay far better for far less challenging work.
Illinois ranks 47th lowest in the country for funding community services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; a once-in-20 years 3.5% increase isn’t going to move the needle on the crisis impacting community agencies serving people with disabilities.
One reason reimbursement was so much higher than the minimum wage back then was that the minimum wage was lower than it is now. Click here for a chart.
* From the They Deserve More Coalition…
“These are not minimum wage jobs, caring for people with disabilities,” said Ben Stortz, president and CEO of Cornerstone Services. “It is strenuous work with long hours where you are responsible for someone’s life and wellbeing. Wages were already deplorably low, and now the good work done by state leaders for the rest of Illinois workers will unwittingly exacerbate the staffing crisis for people with disabilities as more and more DSPs leave for Amazon or Walmart or $15-an-hour fast food jobs.”
With so many DSPs reluctantly leaving for other opportunities with higher pay, people with disabilities and their families face constant change and uncertainty. Insufficient staffing can lead to dangerous, even life-threatening situations. More and more providers are forced to shut down programs and turn people away who need and deserve support.
“We are glad to get a very small piece of this year’s budget and greatly appreciate those legislators who have championed our cause in recent years,” said Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association. “But we are so far behind, and the minimum wage legislation – which is important for many – has the unintended consequence of leaving us in more dire straits than ever. We hope and pray that our budgeteers will take this into account as they look at new revenue coming in, and we will not stop pressing until our state leaders make people with disabilities a priority.”
The argument is they need to pay people more than the minimum wage because the jobs are so difficult and recruitment and retention suffers if they can’t offer premiums above the minimum. But what happens when the minimum wage is more like a livable wage? If these groups don’t get any more money, we’ll probably find out.