Update on Illinois Home Services Program Advocacy

Below is a message from Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy. The note is about a new rule from the Department of Labor, and the impact of the rule on Illinois’ Home Services Program.

Here is the note:

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

Over the last two weeks, advocates have been working hard to look at the new rule on overtime affecting the DHS-DRS Home Services Program (HSP). As you may recall, the new policy exists because the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a new Final Rule on overtime and travel time pay for domestic workers, like the Individual Providers in (HSP). Both HSP customers with disabilities and Individual Providers have by now received letters explaining the new overtime policy, which you can find at this link . Make no mistake, the new overtime policy is creating serious issues for thousands of people with disabilities and workers.

Yesterday morning, a group of 23 advocacy groups sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor to explain a variety of problems with the new Illinois policy. That l etter is at this link . We asked them to review the policy and basically, to allow Illinois to provide greater flexibility in implementing the policy. The main problems with the policy are, in short:

• The deadline for everyone to comply is too short (January 1, 2016)
• The exceptions allowed for overtime are too narrow
• The policy raises questions about possible Olmstead violations
• The policy raises questions about possible employment law violations

Worker advocates estimate that around 9,000 Individual Providers who currently work more than 40 hours a week will find their hours cut back to 40. This will create a worker shortage for people with disabilities. We know that many people with disabilities will struggle to find Individual Providers who can work all the hours required each week, because the hours that people with disabilities will not change. Thus, it is incredibly important that the U.S. DOL review and discuss the new policy with the State of Illinois and stakeholders.

Have questions about what to do? At this time, if you are an HSP customer living in Chicago, please contact Access Living’s Home and Community Ombudsman Program at (312) 640-2152 or ombudsman@accessliving.org. Call and ask questions or share your story.

If you live outside of Chicago, you can contact your local Center for Independent Living; look them up by county at www.incil.org. The Centers will want to know who is having an issue, and they can help refer you to new Individual Providers. You can also contact the Home and Community Ombudsmen for your area by calling the Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966 (even if you are not a senior).

Individual Providers with questions should call the SEIU Healthcare Member Resource Center.

For those involved with the developmental disabilities Home Based Services and Supports Program (HBSS), which is different from HSP, we’d like to point you to the advocacy of the Arc of Illinois on this issue. For more info from the Arc see this link .

We will continue to keep you posted with new advocacy updates.

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living
Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy