In November 2015, the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) at the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) began the process of implementing a new Federal overtime rule at the U.S. Department of Labor. The rule mandates that states pay overtime and travel time to workers who provide direct care services, such as personal assistants, with the Home Services Program.
While overtime for personal assistants is a good thing, and will help strengthen the program, Illinois’ implementation guidelines will create problems for consumers and personal assistants. A few of the implementation guidelines include:
The 35 Hour Cap: The Illinois implementation plan caps the number of hours an individual provider works for one consumer at 35. This will force consumers to have to seek additional providers.
40 Hour Cap for Individual Providers: Minus a few exceptions, Illinois will cap the total number of hours an Individual Provider may work at 40. Prior to this policy, there was no cap on overtime hours. It is estimated this will impact up to 9,000 individual providers.
The new guidelines force people with disabilities to hire new personal assistants, even if it is not their choice to do so, and force personal assistants to reduce hours, reducing their pay and threatening their means of living.
Since Illinois announced the new guidelines, people with disabilities and personal assistants have spoken out against the guidelines, demanding Illinois work with the community in order to come up with guidelines that are fair and that support consumers and workers.
This includes Jennifer Kostanski, a consumer in the Home Services program. Under the new guidelines, Kostanski’s weekend care giver would be forced to give up the job because of the cap on hours. “I rely on good caregivers for most of my dressing, grooming, bathing, meal preparation and medication administration,” Kostanski said. “I'm currently searching for a weekend CNA, to cover the hours that my CNA, will no longer be able to work, due to this new policy. It's really hard finding someone I trust and that can actually do the job correctly.”
Illinois intended to implement the new guidelines beginning January 1, then moved the deadline to March 1, 2016. Just days before March 1, Illinois postponed the implementation deadline for a second time. The postponement gives the community the opportunity to continue speaking out against the rules. Advocates are urged to voice your concerns. If you’d like to get involved with the effort against the current Illinois guidelines, contact Access Living at firstname.lastname@example.org