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House passes bill to phase out the sub-minimum wage for some disabled Illinoisans

Friday, May 24, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Dave Dahl

Disabled Illinoisans who make a sub-minimum wage in community workshops would eventually make the minimum, if a bill which passed the House Thursday becomes law.

The sponsor of the “Dignity in Pay” Act is State Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago).

“One in four of us has a disability,” Mah said. “People with disabilities are our neighbors, our friends, and those we love. Our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, you and me.”

* WGEM

After a long debate Thursday, the Illinois state House of Representatives passed a bill requiring workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities be paid the full minimum wage.

Known as the Dignity in Pay Act, it would end Illinois’s 14(c) certificate program, allowing some employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. Though administered by the federal government, Illinois lawmakers can outlaw the program from being used in the state.

The programs would be phased out, eventually ending Dec. 31, 2029. To help ease the transition, the bill comes with a $2 million annual grant program administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The bill would require annual progress reports on the plan’s implementation through Jan. 1, 2030, and then provide up on the employment of people with disabilities through Jan. 1, 2035. The bill also requires that at least two current 14(c) certificate holders sit on the task force.

“We can all agree Illinois should evolve in a way that respects the full dignity in all people with disabilities,” said state Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, the bill’s sponsor.

Though the bill passed with bipartisan support, not everyone’s on board with the change. Opponents fear it will put people with disabilities out of work.

* Capitol News Illinois

Advocates, including House sponsor Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, said eliminating 14(c) certificates would build upon rights granted to people with disabilities in previous decades by giving them higher paying and more rewarding employment.

“After more than five years of dialogue and compromise, stakeholders have united on this bill – the Dignity in Pay Act – which is designed to expand work opportunities and improve the menu of services and supports for people with disabilities in Illinois,” Mah said.

Mah noted that workers with disabilities who work in 14(c) workshops could have a variety of conditions like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairments, and mood disorders.

* WJDB in March

State Representative Charlie Meier is leading a charge to oppose legislation that would require sheltered workshops like the Kaskaskia Workshop to pay minimum wage to their clients with intellectual and developmental disability.

Meier told a news conference in Springfield last week that the state needs to create opportunities before they close the others.

“There are 3591 clients we believe in the state of Illinois. Where this has been done in other states, a lot of times 70-80% of these residents never work again. So as you look at our clients here with the shirts on today, my work my choice, think about 2513 of them never working again at 70%.

Meier says service providers do a fantastic job, but many of them would be unable to pay minimum wage.

HB793 passed the House yesterday 78-30 with Rep. Meier voting yes on the bill.

From Rep. Meier’s floor remarks…

Many provisions that were not previously in the bill now have been added to the bill making it a better bill. But it’s not a perfect bill.

Many of the disabled concerns have been addressed and I gave my word- which has always been good- that if the House votes with more than 60 votes I would vote for the bill because it’s a lot better than we had last year.

But it’s not what I want.

Click here to watch Rep. Meier’s full remarks.

       

32 Comments
  1. - Loyal Fan - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 1:39 pm:

    I haven’t read the bill yet but how will this effect their SSI if they make more money? And other benefits they receive?


  2. - H-W - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 1:50 pm:

    Great. So now if we can only eliminate the subminimum wage for women in restaurants.


  3. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:10 pm:

    =Opponents fear it will put people with disabilities out of work=

    There is no “fear”, this bill will for sure put thousands of disabled folks out of work. Yes, they delayed out till 2030 but these are our neighbors and friends that need the money yes - but also the pride and dignity of being employed in a job that matches their unique skill level. Trainers will help some but many in the 14(c) certificate program rely on the organization for housing and employment - they will not be able to operate without the current wage structure. So for the benefit of some many will suffer and become lost and isolated.


  4. - Excitable Boy - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:12 pm:

    Good on the House for doing the right thing. Time for the Senate to follow suit.


  5. - Excitable Boy - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:14 pm:

    - this bill will for sure put thousands of disabled folks out of work. -

    That crystal ball of yours must be awfully powerful, Donnie. The most vocal opponent of the effort voted for it, maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about?


  6. - Almost retired - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:16 pm:

    @loyal fan Am increase in income will impact anyone’s housing subsidy, anyone’s Medicaid, Lheap benefits, food stamps if they get them and probably reduce their hours of work. The yea rah group about this has no understanding of the level and type of disabilities nor how the benefit system that supports them works. Workshops provide work because they bid on jobs from private companies. Private companies give them work because it is cost efficient even if the product takes longer to produce due to disabilities. Contracts will be reduced. Advocates sometimes do harm because they don’t understand the complexities. It is about the advocates feeling better about themselves and patting themselves on the back. They are ignorant at times that they are really causing harm.


  7. - VK - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:23 pm:

    I am not knowledgeable enough to discuss the pros and cons of the bill, but I did watch the entirety of the floor debate. Rep. Meier’s remarks were exceptional.


  8. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:26 pm:

    =That crystal ball of yours must be awfully powerful, Donnie=

    I deal directly and indirectly with groups that employ disabled folks under the lower wage. it will be devastating.


  9. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 2:55 pm:

    I fear this bill will have the unintended consequences some commenters have alluded to. As someone who’s worked over 30 years as a vocational advocate for persons with disabilities, I think this is a bad idea with good intentions. Many of the participants in 14(c) work programs have the cognitive abilities of a four-five year old. They don’t understand or appreciate the concept of dignity or even money.

    The work they perform is not competitive employment which is why they earn what they’re able to produce. Many don’t have the physical or emotional stamina to produce at minimum wage standards. Wages earned through 14(c) programs are exempt from being counted toward disability-related benefits. Unless similar safeguards are built into this legislation, it’s likely these folks will experience fewer work and residential opportunities.

    Many workshops have community employment programs for those who are capable of it. Comparing the work performed in 14(c) programs with community jobs that offer min wage is not comparing apples to apples. We’re talking about work activity as part of their overall programming; not a job. They often get to choose whether or not they perform work activity any given day. They may work 15-20 minutes and decide they’d rather watch a movie or perform some other activity. Competitive work doesn’t allow for that and it’s an unfair comparison.

    I would encourage business-owning proponents to hire one or more of these sub-min wage earners and then decide if their work quality & quantity justifies $15/hr. Developmental trainers tasked with assisting and overseeing the work activity scarcely make over min. wage themselves. Pre-employment training activities should not be viewed on the same scale as actual competitive work.


  10. - Enough with Ableism - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:20 pm:

    - They don’t understand or appreciate the concept of dignity or even money -

    There is so much wrong with this statement.

    It is that EXACT mentality which is why we NEED Dignity in Pay. I can assure you that, yes, they do. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities aren’t helpless beings unable to think for themselves. Do they need help and assistance? Of course. But that is no reason to deny them basic dignity. With decades over being in the developmental disability community, people with developmental disabilities do know DIGNITY, and they know when people see them as less than because of their disability.

    We need to stop this awful thinking that folks w/ disabilities cannot contribute to society.

    The fact that people still are devaluing the contributions of people with developmental disabilities in our society is the exact reason we need this law.

    The Senate must pass it NOW.


  11. - Carpe GM - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:26 pm:

    This is an extraordinary, positive bill that will wind up bringing real work to MORE, not fewer, disabled adults in our state.

    18 states have done it. Chicago did it. The sky didn’t fall.

    DD organizations all over the country have become stronger. Some orgs providing subminimum wage work are leaving millions on the table to support the folks they serve because 14C/subminimum wage is NOT matched by Medicaid (50/50 state/fed) as Supported Employment, Community Day Program, and others are.


  12. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:31 pm:

    ===We need to stop this awful thinking that folks w/ disabilities cannot contribute to society.===

    Nobody said that. Some folks with cognitive disabilities can appreciate what dignity means and understand money concepts but many cannot. Does a four year old understand these things? It’s a developmental reality; not an assault on their character. And how exactly can you ‘assure’ me that folks with cognitive limitations understand these concepts? I have over 32 years of experience working with this population as my reference point.


  13. - Gary Arnold - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:32 pm:

    I am happy that Dignity in Pay passed in the Illinois House. This legislation will be important for all people with disabilities and Illinois.


  14. - Carpe GM - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:40 pm:

    It’s crucial to not gloss over this: disability service providers are *ineligible* for federal Medicaid “Adults with DD” waiver reimbursement for 14C/subminimum wage vocational activities.

    Four really significant state and federally funded resources are available to strengthen nonprofits and individuals currently doing sub-minimum wage activity:

    1. Supported Employment Program (DDD): Matched by 50% by the feds through the Adults with Developmental Disabilities Medicaid Waiver. More than $1 million in federal match funding for this is expected in FY2025. Funding rates and participation will increase through Dignity in Pay.

    2. Community Day Service Programs (DDD): Matched at 50% by the feds through the Adults with Developmental Disabilities Medicaid Waiver. More than $95 million in federal match funding is expected in FY25.

    3. IDHS Transition Grant Programs: To expand work supports and other services:

    a. SWTCIE (Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment) is a federal $13.9M grant that supports at least six 14(c) certificate holders annually by funding direct provider payments and technical assistance. The first cohort includes AID, Centerstone, CTF Illinois, HSS, Kreider Services, and The Workshop. [100% federally funded]

    b. CIEC (Competitive Integrated Employment Capacity) grant supports 11 organizations, many of whom were 14(c) certificate holders but transitioned to other program models.

    4. Vocational Rehabilitation (DRS): Customized Employment, Milestone, and Supported Employment & Self-Employment programs provided work-related support for more than 38,000 people in 2023, including over 11,700 people with I/DD.

    These alternatives to subminimum wage are state and federally-funded and will expand work options for thousands of Illinoisans with disabilities.


  15. - Excitable Boy - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:41 pm:

    - And how exactly can you ‘assure’ me that folks with cognitive limitations understand these concepts? -

    Yet you can assure us they don’t? Either way, whether or not someone understands dignity, they still deserve to have it.


  16. - Hester Blvd - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:45 pm:

    How can people with disabilities be valued as full human beings worthy of a chance to work if our laws permit EVERY disabled person to be paid a separate, lower wage rate on the basis of their disability? It is time to change — and I’m proud of the advocates and lawmakers who take seriously the voices of people with disabilities and their families in saying “enough is enough.” In 2024 we can start down a better path that opens new and better work options for all people. We can do it, Illinois. We’re not alone.


  17. - Hopeful father - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 3:53 pm:

    Lost in the noise of this debate is the staggeringly high unemployment rates of disabled adults who want to work. 30%.

    If we are to change the trajectory for adults with disabilities of every kind, we have to take bold, decisive action to open doors for disabled workers. Dignity in Pay does that. I read the bill.

    Illinois should join the states taking big steps to chip away at the horrifying barriers to meaningful employment for disabled workers. Great work to all the reps, senators and to the Governor JB for supporting this generational change.


  18. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:00 pm:

    ===they still deserve to have it.===

    No argument there. My point is sub-min wage is not necessarily an indignity. Again, it’s work activity as opposed to competitive, community employment. Employers are allowed to pay employees under the age of 18 a training wage which is below min. wage. Is that an indignity too? Devaluing and indignity are concepts non-disabled people are assigning to this population. I’ve spent a lot of time in sheltered workshops and the clients there are always valued and treated with compassion, and dignity. And, they all have the opportunity to earn at or above minimum wage when production dictates. Equating pay to value as a human being is silly.


  19. - Sibling advocate - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:08 pm:

    Rep. Charlie Meier’s patronizing approach reflects that of his parent constituents; “These poor disabled people love coming to the the workshop and have dignity in their work.” while the CEOs make 6 figure salaries in some cases. Listen to disabled people who never can leave the sheltered workshop because of transportation, lack of Customized Employment, etc. What is Reo, Meier’s plan when the Department of Labor cancelleds 14(c) certificates in the coming year?? Thank you Rep Meier for voting for the bill.

    And for those worried about SSI: People with SSI will ALWAYS have more money if they have a job and career. Social Security has the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program which helps beneficiaries stay qualified for public benefits and save; also we have ABLE accounts, special needs trusts; and Illinois Medicaid raised its countable assets in the AABD category to $17,500 last year. I hope and pray the Senate passes it.

    Dignity in Pay will help Illinois join the 21st century in state of the art approaches towards supporting people with ID/DD.


  20. - Carpe GM - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:16 pm:

    Cubs guy,

    There’s no dignity in work or wages for the hordes of people with disabilities who can’t find any job.

    Have you examined the outcomes in Chicago or the 18 states that phased out subminimum wage years ago?

    Have you talked with the 40 providers in Illinois who voluntarily relinquished their 14c certificates in the last 3 years because better options existed?

    The patronizing, fear mongering talking points aren’t helpful to the disabled adults who want a chance to work and earn wages. They are not children.

    Do better.


  21. - nathan joerndt - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:18 pm:

    I am someone with a disability and I like to speak up for what is the right thing to do!!! I honestly think that dignity in pay is Very important because i feel like people with disabilities deserve a fair wage sub minimum wage is not fair at all!!!


  22. - Grateful Gail - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:22 pm:

    Thank you Rep. Meier. Excellent comments. In my 40 years working with disability groups across the country….when 14C in eliminated a few individuals benefit, but many lose their jobs. Good intention, but many who voted yes have no real understanding of the situation. Rep. Meier does, and hopefully someone will listen to him. From my friends who at one time had actual work in a sheltered workshop, when their agency dropped 14-C they now spend the days at the sheltered workshop watching TV, learning about stop signs (their words), and visiting museums, libraries, etc. but earning NO money. That’s what they want. The dignity to WORK!!! Cubs 16 is spot on!!


  23. - Steve Polite - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:41 pm:

    I also worked as a DSP for several years. Most if not all of the clients were eligible for SSI including those in sheltered workshops. Paying them minimum wage may cause them to lose their SSI benefits which they depend on. Like Cubs in 16 said, what happens when they don’t want to work or only work for 10 or 15 minutes which happens frequently in sheltered workshops. On an hourly wage, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid unless your employer has PTO time, some don’t.

    Many who receive SSI use some of it to pay for the services they receive including housing, food, and transportation.

    “Who can get SSI
    Adults and children might be eligible for SSI if they have:

    Little or no income, and
    Little or no resources, and
    A disability, blindness, or are age 65 or older.” - SSA.gov


  24. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 4:57 pm:

    @Carpe GM

    It’s easy to be dismissive and condescending when you don’t deal with the realities of the state’s social service delivery system on a daily basis.

    Do better.


  25. - Sibling Advocate - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 5:02 pm:

    I also worked as a DSP for several years. Most if not all of the clients were eligible for SSI including those in sheltered workshops. Paying them minimum wage may cause them to lose their SSI benefits which they depend on. Like Cubs in 16 said, what happens when they don’t want to work or only work for 10 or 15 minutes which happens frequently in sheltered workshops. On an hourly wage, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid unless your employer has PTO time, some don’t.”

    So much ingorance and ableist thinking here. SSI recipients with ALWAYS have more money if they have a career and work; and will not lose eligibility for benefits. SSA’s Work Incentives Planning and Assistance in Illinois is run by the IL Department on Aging. Look it up https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=137647 Its very helpful for people with seasonal work, or unsteady income; Social Security PROMOTES work. And with Dignity in Pay, residential CILA (group home) recipients will be able to keep more of their SSI money too. Yes someone has to pay the rent but it works out. There are countless psychosocial benefits to work. Also after paying Social Security taxes, SSI changes to SSDI based on one’s own work record; Social Security will always give you the amount thats greater. Disabled people earn Social Security work credits faster than typical.

    Its SO important for young people to start working with social security wages; they earn Social Security credits sooner and qualify for SSDI sooner. My brother’s SSDI and also his Disabled Adult Child benefit after our parent’s deaths enabled him to live in his own house. Thank heavens our mother helped him get a job in 1984 after high school and segregated special ed all his life. It would have been devastating for him to be put in a segregated sheltered workshop.

    Sheltered Workshops are still put in IEP plans! How outrageous is that? Why aren’t K-12 shools preparing people with disabilites for work? Why put them in sheltered workshops which is based on a medical model of treatment?? We put a lot of money into K-12 education; its time to modernize and put Community First and adopt a Community First Choice policy in Illinois based on a Social Inclusion model of disability.


  26. - Sibling advocate - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 5:38 pm:

    Illinois has also taken tiny baby steps toward Customized Employment, a keystone support for career develeopment for people with disabilities which is NOT charity. Customized Employment contributes to the employer’s bottom line. The Customized Employment Act became law in 2020 and is being updated to expand it. Marc Gold and Associates, a pioneering Illinois customized employment consultant will provide training and support. Marc Gold was a professor at UIUC in the 1970s, his research proved people with disabilities with high support needs were employable in competitive employment. Look up YouTube videos and get your kleenex. Marc Gold died way too young but his company has worked across the country, establishing Customized Employment practices and supporting employers and employees.


  27. - Hester Blvd - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 5:58 pm:

    == Unless similar safeguards are built into this legislation==

    Safeguards are built into the ABLE program which shields $100k, and equally strong protections from SSA give further security to people with disabilities from losing benefits when they work.

    Cubs in 16 - you excel at defending a painfully broken status quo.


  28. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 6:05 pm:

    @sibling advocate

    WIPA is operated by the Illinois Assistive Technology Project, not DOA. SSI recipients do come out ahead by working with regard to monthly income but the increase in rent, reduction of SNAP benefits, etc. can and often does result in a net loss of financial resources. Customized employment has had some success in large communities but with IL by and large rural, there are many barriers to overcome such as transportation, on the job supervision, etc. That’s not to say we don’t try but it’s easy to stand on high moral ground when you don’t navigate the IL social service delivery system on a daily basis. The reality is some people will never be able to work outside of a sheltered workshop setting and well-meaning legislation like this can result in real life consequences for them. We have to look big picture and first and foremost insure we’re not doing harm. That’s what advocacy is all about.


  29. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 6:21 pm:

    I’m not defending what I agree is a broken system. I’m simply pointing out there’s much to consider when paying some of these folks min wage. It’s not as easy and clear cut as some commenters are suggesting. I’ve dealt with it on a daily basis my entire career. I’ve given presentations on SSA work incentives. But those safeguards don’t always work the way they’re written.


  30. - Carpe GM - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 7:47 pm:

    Not only are you defending a broken system, Cubs guy, you also conveniently gloss over very plain questions (on other state/city experiences and organizations who opted out of 14c) in favor of name calling (”dismissive/condescending”).

    A society that tolerates sub-minimum wages for disabled people signals - in a well-meaning way, perhaps - that people with disabilities have less value; that they are in a special; second-class, and that they are inferior.

    If you had a disability or loved a person with a disability who experienced the pain of unemployment on the basis of their disability, it’s doubtful you would render the opinions of those who disagree with you with such cavalier, sanctimonious disregard.

    I have no doubt you are a kind and caring person - but consider the million+ Illinoisans who are disabled and are desperate for work. Re-read the bill. Consider whether it might, on balance, help them. Please. Your mind might change.


  31. - Carpe GM - Friday, May 24, 24 @ 8:01 pm:

    Another advantage to this bill is that it will help policymakers, employers, and service providers to zero in on the well-established benefits of hiring people with disabilities:

    https://hbr.org/2023/07/disability-as-a-source-of-competitive-advantage

    Study after study confirms workers with disabilities are dependable, productive, add value to workplace, lift the morale of other workers, and are loyal employees with lower rates of absenteeism, turnover, and even tardiness – characteristics that cannot always be easily measured and whose meaning is absolutely lost in the fear, uncertainty, and doubt of discussion around phasing out 14c/subminimum wage.

    Our focus as an “Employment First” state and country thankfully is helping shift society gradually toward prioritizing real work for real wages– even for our “severe and profound” and “most vulnerable” neighbors who so often are used in glib talking points for protectors of the status quo.


  32. - Sibling advocate - Saturday, May 25, 24 @ 7:05 am:

    @Cubs in ‘16
    @sibling advocate
    ” WIPA is operated by the Illinois Assistive Technology Project, not DOA. SSI recipients do come out ahead”

    Oops I was incorrect, i was thinking of SHIP Senior Health Insurance program for Medicare beneficiaries. ITAP serves one of 3 WIPA regions in Illinois. https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=137647


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