The average wage for direct care staff in Illinois is just $9.35 per hour. Yet, DSPs are entrusted with the most important and intimate care of our family members. These critical employees are the key to our loved ones’ health and happiness. The reason for the low wages for such an important job is that the State has not increased its reimbursement rates for ICFs or CILAs since March 2008, almost nine years. As a result, many facilities cannot afford to increase the pay for their direct care staff. Misericordia pays its DSPs significantly more because it is committed to making sure that its employees make a living wage. However, because of the State’s low reimbursement rates, the higher wages Misericordia pays its direct care staff increase Misericordia’s annual deficit which it must make up through private fundraising from its families and friends. This is just another example of the State shirking its responsibility to provide adequate resources to meet the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and attempting to shift that responsibility to the families.
The disabilities community is making a strong effort to address the DSP wage issue. Last spring legislation was introduced and overwhelming passed by the Illinois legislature that would have increased reimbursement rates to providers, including Misericordia, so that providers could increase DSP wages to $15.00 per hour. Unfortunately, last August Governor Rauner vetoed the legislation. In his veto message, he recognized the importance of DSPs but claimed that the State, absent a budget, has no money to fund the increase. The Illinois legislature just completed its fall veto session. An attempt was made to override Governor Rauner’s veto of the DSP wage bill, but the vote in the Illinois House failed to attract the required two-thirds majority. That vote took place the day before the Chicago Tribune started its series of articles on the poor conditions in some of Illinois’ group homes. As a result of the Tribune series, a new bill has been introduced in the Illinois Senate to increase DSP wages to $15.00 per hour.
The new DSP wage bill is SB 580 Amendment 2. Misericordia believes that it is very important that this bill be enacted into law. The Illinois legislature will consider this bill when it returns after the new year. When the bill comes up for consideration, we will let you know and we will suggest specific actions you can take to let your state representatives know how important it is support passage of the bill and to raise DSP wages. The link to SB 580 Amendment 2 is: House Floor Amendment 2 to SB 580.