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Proposed Cap on Home Care Workers’ Hours Delayed in Illinois

March 11, 2016

Illinois officials have delayed indefinitely a policy capping the hours of home care workers in the state’s Home Services Program (HSP).

The policy, which originated last year from the state Department of Human Services (DHS), would have limited HSP workers to just 35 hours a week, plus five hours of travel time.

However, DHS announced that it would delay implementation of the policy on February 29, the day before it was scheduled to take effect.

The hours cap was a response to both a federal rule change requiring home care employers to pay time-and-a-half wages for overtime hours, as well as the ongoing Illinois budget impasse, which has strained funding for social services. (Illinois has been operating without an FY16 budget since July 1.)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who supports the hours cap, said that the move would save the state up to $7 million a year.

However, Terri Harkin, vice president of the home care division at SEIU Healthcare Illinois, told the Associated Press that the proposed cap was “ill conceived” and was arrived at too hastily by the state government.

“Together with disability advocates, home care workers have been demanding that the state engage in thoughtful discussion and negotiation over the new overtime policy,” Harkin said.

A statement on the website of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which represents HSP home care workers, says that the state is “required to bargain with us over this issue.”

HSP allows an estimated 30,000 Illinoisans who have disabilities to remain living independently in their homes.

Gov. Proposes Home Care Cuts

A separate state program that allows Illinoisans to remain in their own homes, the Community Care Program, was recently threatened with nearly $200 million in cuts.

The cuts proposed in Rauner’s FY17 budget plan, released in late February, would affect approximately 44,000 elders who rely on the Community Care Program for their home care needs, according to SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

“I don’t understand why the budget cuts are starting with the senior program,” Charlotte Stephenson, a Community Care Program consumer, told Medill News Service on March 3. “We are older. We need help. We want to stay in the community, function in the community.”

Critics of the proposed cuts point out that they would likely cost the state more money in the long run by forcing elders out of their homes and into more expensive institutional settings, such as nursing homes.

— by Matthew Ozga

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