SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Illinois lawmakers have increased state budget funding for people with developmental disabilities several times over the past few years. However, the wages for direct support professionals remain low and many facilities are understaffed.
Direct support professionals are asking state lawmakers to approve a $4 raise for Fiscal Year 2024. The agency reimbursement for DSP services is currently $17, but the starting wage is still barely above minimum wage.
Union members from AFSCME and SEIU Health Care told reporters Wednesday that many staff work more than 80 hours a week but still struggle financially.
“I remember starting off 30 years ago at $5.50 an hour. After 18 years, I was still making $13,” said Veronica Lee, a direct support professional and AFSCME member. “Now, I’m at $22.04. But look at how long it took for me to get there.”
Lee said many direct support professionals are leaving the industry for less-demanding jobs with higher pay and better benefits.
The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities said it supports the call for higher wages. IARF President and CEO Josh Evans said he agrees that a $4 per hour increase is a necessary step to encourage more people to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and turn those jobs into rewarding careers.
“Our workforce shortages are very real and very troubling,” Evans said. “We still need to work through some differences on how the wage increase would work, but we stand right with the workers on the need for higher wages.”
Evans noted that DSPs need to receive a higher wage as soon as possible so the state can improve care for those in need. The request from providers and union members is $2.50 higher than the increase proposed by the Pritzker administration.
Providers say direct support professionals should receive 150% of the state’s minimum wage. The decision could affect more than 30,000 direct support professionals and any future workers in the field.
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April 26, 2023 at 07:21PM