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Illinois Legislature Passes $15 Wage Bill for Home Care Workers

May 19, 2016

A bill raising wages for Illinois home care workers to $15/hour has passed the Illinois House and Senate, although its chances of being signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) are reportedly slim.

A spokesperson for Rauner told the Associated Press on May 18 that the estimated $87 million price tag for the wage increase is likely too high for the governor to endorse.

Currently, the minimum wage for workers in the state’s Home Services Program (HSP) is $13/hour. However, workers have experienced lower take-home pay in the weeks following the May 1 introduction of a 40-hour-per-week cap, thus preventing them from earning time-and-a-half overtime pay under a recently implemented federal rule change.

HSP workers and consumers have demonstrated during Rauner’s public appearances in recent weeks, calling attention to the workers’ smaller paychecks and the disruptions in services that consumers have experienced.

Rauner has defended the hours cap — which affects up to 24,000 HSP workers — as a cost-cutting measure necessitated by the state’s ongoing failure to pass an FY16 budget, now nearly 11 months overdue.

But SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which represents HSP workers, has estimated that allowing the workers to earn overtime pay would cost the state just $7 million annually — a mere fraction of their $36 billion in yearly spending.

The union has supported the $15/hour minimum wage bill, with SEIU Healthcare Illinois president Terri Harkin calling it a “much-needed response to Governor Rauner’s cruel and regressive efforts to freeze wages and other tactics to weaken the workforce, which are separating people with disabilities from their families and eviscerating the economic livelihoods of the majority-women caregiving workforce.”

In addition to raising the minimum wage for HSP workers, the bill would require new hires to participate in a “comprehensive in-person orientation” as well as receive yearly training boosters in areas such as abuse prevention.

— by Matthew Ozga

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