People with disabilities included in state budget


May 31, 2018

We congratulate our state leaders for coming through with an FY2019 budget, and appreciate that modest additional support for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities has been included.  While we understand that reaching this compromise required many difficult decisions, we are very disappointed that the increase is not sufficient to address the staffing crisis that is so harmful to people with disabilities and their families.   

Agencies that support people with disabilities waited nearly a decade for an increase in the average starting wage for direct support professionals (DSPs) while all around us, minimum wage is going up; and retail, fast food and warehouse jobs offer better salaries than we can. This lack of state funding has led to devastating outcomes for those who rely on direct support staff for daily care and support. Community homes have closed, hundreds of caregiver positions have gone unfilled, and nearly 20,000 children and adults with disabilities have languished on a state waiting list for services. On a daily basis we are scrambling to cover shifts, letting down people with disabilities who rely on us for safe and fulfilling lives.

Last year’s budget was an important first step – a 75-cent per hour raise after nine years of nothing, which helped us get over the $10 mark with average starting wages for DSPs. To get even less this year – a 50-cent per hour raise – is a small help, but it doesn’t come close to solving the problem. On July 1, mandated minimum wages are going up once again in Chicago ($12 an hour) and Cook County ($11 an hour), with private sector wages for entry level workers far outstripping DSP pay. Unfortunately, the caregiver crisis is set to continue unabated.

We must have a plan in the fall for state funding that provides for a living wage for those who care for people with disabilities – we cannot wait another year of revolving doors and closing homes and programs. We appreciate the incremental support, and continue to urge the state to do more for its citizens who need the most support.