Measure called a must for continuing help to disabled in Illinois
Direct support professionals who take care of people with disabilities in Illinois barely earn a living wage, but they won't see that change at least until fall, when the House is expected to again take up Senate Bill 955, which passed the Senate in May.
“Over the last nine years, there’s been zero increase in funding for developmental disabilities," Mark McHugh, the president and CEO of Envision Unlimited, a non-profit social service agency, said recently. " There aren’t enough costs to cut to be able to make up for that loss of earning power.”
McHugh voiced his opinions to Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson of "Chicago’s Morning Answer" radio show. Proft is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication, and sits on the board of Envision Unlimited.
Funding cuts have forced some agencies that work with disabled people to make crisis plans for eliminating programs, McHugh said. He pointed out that inflation has climbed 16 percent in the past nine years in Illinois, but wages have been frozen, leading to staffing problems.
“The wages for direct support professionals start at $9.35 an hour," he said. "Compare that to what you can make at Walmart or an Amazon warehouse, where they make $13 and up."
Envision has a 29 percent annual turnover and can have as many as 35 positions available at any given time. In fact, many community-based service agencies have staff vacancy rates of up to 25 percent.
“It not only creates a poor quality of life for people that we care for, but it creates dangerous situations because you don’t have enough people on hand to do the work,” McHugh said.
SB955 would require Illinois to provide community-based service agencies with rates and reimbursements that would allow them to pay direct support professionals $15 an hour.
“That creates a predictable and adequate funding to do the basic jobs that we’re expected to do,” McHugh said.