Below is the alert from Amber Smock, Director of Advocacy at Access Living.
Dear Access Living friends and allies,
We would like to share with you an important update on the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) Home Services Program (HSP). Last week, we relayed that the State had moved to rescind, or suspend, the overtime policy for HSP. The State had not followed formal rule-making procedures for this policy, and instead is working to move the policy through that process. While the rule-making process is going on, the policy is suspended. The rule-making process will include opportunities for public input, so we will keep you posted on that. We hope the suspension of the policy for now provides concerned HSP customers and workers some relief for the time being.
While the policy is suspended, what does that mean for HSP customers and workers? This morning, Access Living received the following set of answers to a number of questions we asked, from HSP Bureau Chief Vivian Anderson. The same questions had also been posed to DHS-DRS by Illinois Representative Joe Sosnowski, so we thank Representative Sosnowski and his constituents at RAMP CIL for helping to find answers. Our questions (with some insertions in brackets for clarity) and her responses are as follows:
1) Is the rescission [suspension] effective immediately? Yes
2) Will IPs be able to work overtime without threats of discipline, and be paid time and a half? [Individual Providers=IPs] IP’s who work overtime will be paid for the overtime worked and documented.
3) Will IPs and customers still have to fill out [overtime] OT justification forms? No
4) Is DRS still going to send occurrences for pay period 7/16-31, and if yes, will occurrences during that period count toward the limit of 3? DRS has not sent occurrence notices since the first pay period in May. The Department sent warning letters in June to allow customers additional time to hire additional providers in order to comply with the policy.
5) Do customers still have to seek out enough IPs to fill the “quota” per the rescinded policy? We believe the availability of additional Individual Providers is a good public policy that ensures backup providers are available in the event something occurs and the primary provider cannot perform their job.
6) Have any IPs actually been terminated due to occurrences under the overtime policy? No IPs were unfunded due to the Overtime Policy.
7) Will any IPs that have been terminated be allowed to come back and work as an IP? NA [not applicable]
8) Will any violation of rescinded policy be removed from the IP’s history? (i.e. start with clean history once final rule is approved) The first occurrences sent to providers for the first pay period in May will be rescinded. Once the rules are in place, providers will start with no overtime occurrences.
9) Will each case of overtime still be vetted through Vivian Anderson [DRS]? Any providers who work over 40 hours in a work week will be paid time and one half for those hours. During the suspension of the policy there will be no "vetting" of overtime hours.
10) How and when will DRS communicate this change to IPs and customers? DRS/HSP will send notification via mail to all customers and IPs that the policy is suspended until the Administrative Rules are approved.
11) How and when is DRS communicating this change to DRS staff? A call was held on 8/3/16 with all pertinent staff.
12) When does the State intend to publish the proposed rules in the Register? The rules were provided to the Secretary of State’s Office on August 8, 2016 for publishing in the Register.
13) Is it possible to discuss the rule prior to finalizing the version that will be published for comment? As the rules have already been filed, any comments should be submitted during the First Notice period.
Please be sure to share the above information with HSP customers and workers who need to know. Access Living and our allies will be watching for the State’s publishing of the draft rule. At that time, the public will have 45 days to send in written comments. We will keep you posted on opportunities for advocacy on this process. Access Living maintains that the original policy creates significant problems for thousands of people with disabilities and workers, and that the final policy must be far more flexible than the original.