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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Illinois Disability Advocates Voice Concerns with States Personal Assistant OT Rule, Confront Gov Rauner

In Springfield, IL on May 11, 2016, in unity disability and labor advocates from Chicago ADAPT, Access Living- CIL in Chicago, and SEIU HCII joined together as advocates. Governor Rauner was speaking at an event at the State Library, the advocates protested during the event, effectively shutting things down, the way we feel when our concerns about the overtime policy are not take to heart.

YouTube Published by seiuhealthcareilin on May 11, 2016

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Home health workers, clients grapple with State of Illinois OT rule

nice article by DAN PETRELLA,  Herald and Review Springfield Bureau Chief | May 11, 2016

SPRINGFIELD — Ginger Grant of Charleston earns $13 an hour as an in-home personal assistant for a woman with multiple sclerosis.

Under the woman’s plan through the Illinois Department of Human Services’ home services program, she qualifies for nearly 60 hours of care per week. But under new department rules that took effect May 1, Grant and roughly 24,000 other personal assistants across the state are no longer allowed to work more than 40 hours a week.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration instituted the rules in response to a federal Department of Labor ruling that said home care providers must receive time-and-a-half overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. The administration said the overtime restrictions, which it announced in November and twice delayed, are necessary to control costs.

For Grant’s client, though, it means a scramble – so far, unsuccessful – to find another personal assistant who can help her with tasks such as1 cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and even scratching her head.

“It’s difficult to find somebody who wants to do this work for the few hours that would be left over,” Grant said Wednesday while testifying before an Illinois House committee that’s reviewing the new rules.

Grant works on call so that her client can get help with things such as going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, if needed. But with Grant’s help, the woman is able to remain in her own home rather than having to go into a nursing home, which could end up costing the state a lot more in the long run, she said.

“She does not care to be there,” Grant said. “That’s not where she belongs. She’s a valued member of her community. She contributes to her community by paying taxes.”

Grant and other personal assistants who provide care for about 30,000 clients statewide are represented by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois. The union estimates that paying overtime would cost the state $7 million per year out of roughly $36 billion in overall state spending.

The union, its workers and the clients they serve also object to a “three strikes and you’re out” policy that would bar personal assistants from being paid through the program if they work overtime three times without permission.

Grant said her client hasn’t been able to find enough backup workers take on the extra hours.

“What am I supposed to do when I have my 40 hours a week?” she said. “Am I just supposed to leave my consumer and say, ‘Too bad because Gov. Rauner says I can’t work any more hours’?”

Susan Aarup of Chicago, who has cerebral palsy and has three personal assistants who help care for her, said it’s very hard to find backups who can help out in the event that one of them gets sick or needs time off.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire new PAs,” Aarup said, noting that she interviewed someone but wasn’t able to hire her because it was taking six months for the applicant to go through the approval process at the department.

Greg Bassi, chief of staff for the Department of Human Services, said the state has put in place rules governing the use of overtime in the program similar to those used in other departments and at other employers in order to manage costs.

“Despite what was said earlier, we are not going to be applying this policy in a draconian manner,” Bassi told the committee.

He said the department first announced the changes in November and pushed back implementation twice to give providers and consumers more time to adapt. The department has also stepped up recruiting efforts, hiring 5,000 personal assistants, Bassi said.

But Terri Harkin, vice president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said that represents the usual turnover of employees paid under the program, not an overall addition of providers.

SEIU and the state are currently in contract negotiations, and Harkin said the administration has tried to use the overtime rules as a bargaining chip to get the union to agree to a four-year wage freeze.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted Wednesday to raise the state’s minimum wage for home health care workers, including the personal assistants, to $15 an hour.
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If you need help, with personnel assistants, contact the local Center for Independent Living in your area of Illinois INCIL - http://www.incil.org/

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