Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill on Friday that would have put some of Illinois’ most vulnerable at risk and cost taxpayers more than $14 million annually. Senate Bill 261 of the 99th General Assembly would have allowed for unlimited overtime hours for home-care workers without any oversight, leaving Illinoisans with disabilities without backup caretakers who understand their needs.
While proponents of the bill say it allows people with disabilities to make choices, it actually puts them at risk of being served by exhausted caregivers and would not require any backup providers to be available in the case of emergency. In addition, it removes the state’s ability to appropriately manage employee schedules and responsibly manage taxpayer funds.
The Illinois Department of Human Services has embarked on a common, agreed-upon process to create a reasonable overtime policy that protects residents who depend on the Home Services Program, individual providers, and the taxpayers of Illinois.
We are proposing a common-sense overtime policy for the Home Services Program that protects Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, creates jobs, and saves taxpayer dollars. Indeed, policies regarding overtime are a basic practice used by employers throughout the country.
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We took careful consideration when crafting this overtime policy, which supports our primary goal of protecting residents who depend on the Home Services Program. Our stakeholder feedback process was robust. We engaged with individual providers, customers and union representatives in multiple public hearings and fielded more than 300 comments. We listened to the concerns of the HSP community and made changes directly in response to many of the concerns that were raised.
Under our proposal, people with disabilities living in the community will still choose their caregivers, will see no reduction in the amount of service hours in their plan, and will not lose the opportunity to be part of this program.
Our plan outlines many reasonable exceptions that would allow overtime pay. Most notably, overtime would be allowed for individuals whose needs are so profound or complex that training a back-up provider would be impractical. The plan also outlines approvals for emergencies, travelling, and other various circumstances.
Without any overtime policy in place, many of the home care providers are working more than 15-hour shifts. That places people with disabilities at risk, and we think it’s better for them to have caregivers that are rested and best prepared to care for them.
The Home Services Program was designed to help individuals with disabilities live as independently as possible and we want to see this program continue. Our overtime policy would save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the long term sustainability of services for people with disabilities.
Illinois needs and deserves a thoughtful, responsible policy on the use of overtime in the Home Services Program to ensure our most vulnerable residents are protected for many years to come.
James Dimas is the Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.