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Manar, constituents raise concerns about personal care overtime restriction

State Senator Andy Manar
SPRINGFIELD - The Rauner administration's strict 45-hour cap on home care overtime for personal assistants to disabled Illinoisans is too severe and deserves review, State Senator Andy Manar said Monday, flanked by two constituents who are struggling because of the policy.
 
"We're seeing quality-of-life and quality-of-care suffer as a result of the governor's restrictions," Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said. "Gov. Rauner should remember that some cuts may look good on a balance sheet, but they have life-threatening consequences when put into practice."
 
Manar sponsored legislation (HB 3376) in 2017 to extend the overtime cap to 55 hours in an effort to compromise between disability advocates and the administration. Gov. Rauner vetoed the measure.
Today, Manar said he intends to introduce legislation again to address the matter, with input from those who are most affected.
 
"This policy deserves another look, and lawmakers deserve to hear from constituents who must live with the decisions that are made here in Springfield," he said.
 
Joining Manar were DHS Home Service Program consumer David Spurney and his caregiver, Tami Straub, both Staunton residents who are struggling because of the overtime cap.
 
Spurney has a spinal cord injury and a dangerous condition called autonomic dysflexia. Straub has been his caregiver for 27 years, allowing Spurney to live independently at home and to receive specialized assistance from someone with whom he is familiar.
 
However, the overtime cap has disrupted his system of care. His care plan says he should receive about 71 hours of care per week - more than the 45-hour cap. He and Straub applied for an exception under the policy but were denied.
 
"This policy mandates that I must recruit, hire and train additional caregivers to cover my hours that go above 45 each week. There simply are not people in my community with the specialized training necessary who are willing to work a few hours every week for only $13 per hour," Spurney, 47, said.
 
Spurney also noted that his health has been adversely affected during the past year because of the stress and uncertainty the policy has caused. He has been in the hospital multiple times.
 
The Rauner administration implemented the 45-hour overtime cap for personal assistants in August 2017. To date, more than 500 caregivers face suspension under the policy and another 4,000 have been saddled with disciplinary occurrences for violations.
 
The extreme three-strikes-and-you're-out penalty system threatens jobs for caregivers and care for people with disabilities, compromising their ability to continue living safely and independently at home, advocates say.
 
Straub said the cut in her hours has had a significant economic impact on her and Spurney, who lives in her home.
 
"This job isn't about the money, but I have to be able to survive and keep a roof over our heads," Straub said. "My job has been threatened numerous times due to this policy. If I am suspended for working the hours that David needs, I don't know what we would do. I fear I would lose my home, which means David would lose his home, too."