SPRINGFIELD — Without a plan to address problems of inadequate pay and staff shortages, the workers who care for those with developmental disabilities are struggling just to keep the state’s most vulnerable people safe, said State Sen. Pat McGuire.
In a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, McGuire told Department of Human Services Secretary James Dimas that non-profit providers like Cornerstone, Trinity and Easter Seals are losing staff from group homes to local warehouses and distribution centers.
Low reimbursement from the state limits the starting wages of group home workers to $9.35 per hour, while some logistics companies are paying starting employees as much as $15.
“As a result,” McGuire said, “group homes are short-staffed, the remaining staff members are working up to 70 hours a week, and the emphasis now is solely on safety, on keeping residents alive, rather than on finding job opportunities and other community activities for group home residents.”
Dimas revealed that the governor’s only plan to raise these workers’ wages relies on the Senate’s Grand Bargain bipartisan compromise, which the governor to date opposes. The department has nothing in its own budget to address the situation, nor could Dimas identify a specific hourly wage for group home workers the administration deems to be fair.
“Secretary Dimas strikes me as an honorable man,” McGuire said. “But his boss, Gov. Rauner, looks to be ignoring the risks created by underfunding group home disability support workers – unconscionable, unnecessary and unacceptable risks.”
Stories pop up every day all across Illinois about the effects of the budget impasse. Those stories range from facility closures to students who may be on the hook for thousands of dollars for their education. One story in the 18th District shows that the developmentally disabled are especially at risk during the budget impasse.
“Sertoma Centre is just one example of the crisis that the state is facing,” Senator Bill Cunningham said. “We need real governing to ensure that we can end this fiscal crisis that is doing real harm to our community.”