State of Illinois rescinds disastrous overtime policy

The Disabled and Labor will continue fight to ensure longevity of Home Services

CHICAGO-After months of pressure from people with disabilities and workers in the State of Illinois Home Services Program, including a pending class-action lawsuit, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration announced it has rescinded a disastrous new policy of limiting overtime hours in the program. About 8,000 personal assistants were at risk because of the policy, and it was anticipated that up to 2,200 personal assistants would have been terminated from the program this month as a result of Illinois’ new policy.

The announcement is great news to people like Michael Grice, a consumer in the Home Services Program who employs multiple personal assistants. Since Governor Rauner’s unfair overtime policy went into effect on May 1, 2016, two of Grice’s personal assistants received warning letters from the State of Illinois and one was forced to drop Grice as a client. “Illinois’ job is to support people in the Home Services program, not make life harder and threaten to force them back into institutions,” Grice said. “Now, because the policy has been revoked, people with disabilities in the Home Services program can get the services they need to be independent without worry about losing their employees.”

People with disabilities across Illinois utilize the Home Services Program. Under Governor Rauner’s proposed policy, many people in the program would have been forced to hire additional personal assistants, nearly impossible for some people in less populated areas with a limited pool of personal assistants from which to choose. “Governor Rauner’s policy does not reflect the reality of thousands of people with disabilities and personal assistants in the program,” said Amber Smock, the Director of Advocacy at Access Living. “Now, the State of Illinois must work with people with disabilities and the labor community to come up with a policy that supports the independence of consumers in the program and is fair to workers in the program.”

The announcement to rescind the policy came just hours before a class-action was to be filed against the policy. The lawsuit was to be filed by Chicago ADAPT, a grassroots disability rights organization with many members who are part of the Home Services Program, and three plaintiffs who are people with disabilities from Peoria, Carbondale and Chicago.

In May, Governor Rauner and the State of Illinois began to illegally implement the new overtime policy before a public comment period required by law. Now that the policy has been rescinded, an Illinois Policy is expected to go through a rules making process that will allow for public comment. “From almost the moment the Rauner policy was implemented, people with disabilities and caregivers have suffered terrible hardships,” said Terri Harkin, Vice President for Healthcare with SEIU, the Union that represents 25,000 personal assistants in the Home Services Program. “Now, Illinois has a chance to reverse those hardships. They have a chance to develop a strong policy and do what is right for people with disabilities and caregivers.”

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