* Press release…
Illinois’ home health care workers will finally get their back pay this week.
“These frontline workers enrich the lives of Illinois’ elderly and save taxpayers money by keeping them in their homes instead of costlier nursing homes,” Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza said. “They have long since earned the raise they won years ago.”
Back in 2017 the Illinois General Assembly approved a 48-cent-an-hour raise for some 49,053 workers who have visited Illinois’ elderly, providing home health care.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner illegally refused to pay it, even as courts ordered him to follow the law. That pushed some of those elderly Illinoisans into nursing homes at far higher costs to taxpayers. The new administration had to comb through Rauner-era records to determine how much was owed to each worker.
“Despite former Gov. Rauner’s resistance, I safeguarded these back wages in a special account since April, 2018, for home health care workers who were entitled to the 48-cent-an-hour raise promised to them,” Mendoza said. “Given that these funds were safeguarded, my office is able to process these payments immediately without any further delay to hard-working current and former workers.”
These payments are separate from some $300 million in backpay for employees of other departments who were due raises former Gov. Rauner refused to pay. The Illinois Office of Comptroller is working with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and state agencies on the process for those back wages owed to state employees in other departments. Once those vouchers arrive, my office will begin processing such payments.
The $30.7 million in back wages for the home health care workers will be released this week to the Department of Human Services with an issuance date of Friday, June 28, 2019.
…Adding… Hannah Meisel has some different numbers today…
The state budget for the 2018 fiscal year included 48-cent per hour raises for roughly 28,000 personal assistants employed under the Department of Human Services’ Home Services Program, who provide services to individuals with severe disabilities so they can remain in their own homes. The total cost of the wage raise was estimated at $12.7 million annually.
But Rauner’s administration refused to pay the raises, arguing that they were improper as they are usually part of collectively bargained-for contracts with public sector unions. Those personal assistants are represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois. The union filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of its members, who earned $13 per hour before the 48-cent per hour raise.
After a months-long legal battle, a Cook County judge sided with SEIU in early 2018. Rauner appealed, but as part of the appeal, his administration started setting aside money for the raises in an escrow account, which has netted $32 million, according to the comptroller’s website. A First District Appellate Court panel affirmed the judge’s ruling earlier this year.
Gov. JB Pritzker’s office announced in March that the personal assistants would begin to receive the 48-cent per hour raise in their paychecks starting in April. The administration also began paying out raises provided for in the budget for the 2019 fiscal year to 14,000 child care workers represented by SEIU.
The back pay owed to the personal assistants will be going out to more than the 28,000 workers the raise had initially affected, as turnover in those jobs is high.