Sen. Heather A. Steans

“We should not have needed a court order to tell us to do this.”

SPRINGFIELD — Responding to a 2017 court order that ruled Illinois has not fulfilled its end of an agreement to better care for the developmentally disabled, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) passed legislation out of the Illinois Senate today to give the people who take care of their day-to-day needs a raise.

“Direct care workers in these facilities are feeding, clothing, bathing, monitoring, diagnosing and treating people with developmental disabilities and complicated medical conditions, and they’re currently doing that for less pay than the average receptionist,” Steans said. “They make less than Chicago’s minimum wage. It is a source of burnout, of turnover, of resentment. The situation has to change – both for the workers and the people they care for.”

A federal court ruled in 2011 that Illinois has been derelict in its duty to properly care for patients in intermediate care and medically complex care facilities for persons with developmental disabilities. The state has since been subject to monitoring by the court to determine whether it is complying with the order to better the situation, and in 2017 the court found the state has still failed to provide adequate care, in part because it does not pay the staff at such facilities a sufficient wage.

“We should not have needed a court order to tell us to do this,” Steans said. “These are jobs that demand vigilance, professionalism and an enduring compassion and patience. This modest raise should only be our first step in addressing this situation.”

The Senate voted 54-0 to pass Senate Bill 2541, which raises the hourly wage of workers in such facilities that care for the developmentally disabled by $0.26 to $13 per hour. It also grants the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services the emergency authority to enact the raise without any further executive action.

The legislation awaits consideration by the Illinois House.