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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Illinois Lawmakers Move To Block OT Restrictions For Home Care Workers

SPRINGFIELD , IL.— Feeling ignored by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration, people with disabilities who receive state-funded in-home care are turning to the General Assembly in an effort to block proposed overtime restrictions for their caregivers.

article by Dan Petrella for The PANTAGRAPH | Nov. 22, 2016
The Rauner administration is seeking to prohibit personal assistants who provide care through the state’s home services program from working more than 40 hours per week under most circumstances.

The state implemented the rule earlier this year in response to U.S. Department of Labor ruling that said home care workers must earn time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Facing a lawsuit from a union representing 25,000 home care workers, the state Department of Human Services put the rule on hold in August to seek approval from a bipartisan House and Senate committee charged with signing off on such rules.

While a final draft of the rules has yet to be submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, the Senate last week approved a bill that would prohibit the department from making its proposed changes.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the administration’s proposal “fundamentally undermines the vastly successful home services program.”

The restriction on overtime “needlessly penalizes workers” and “sows confusion overall,” Lightford said.

The measure, which the Senate approved on a veto-proof 38-18 vote, now goes to the House, where Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, has signed on as the chief sponsor.

Spokeswoman Meghan Powers wrote in an email that the department sought “to create a rule that protects residents who depend on the Home Services program, individual providers and the taxpayers of Illinois.”

“This legislation allows for unlimited overtime hours without any oversight, leaving our most vulnerable without backup providers, less job creation in Illinois and additional costs of at least $14 million annually,” Powers wrote.However, advocates and people in the program say the changes would deny them their choice of caregivers.

K.L. Cleeton, a 27-year-old Effingham resident who’s paralyzed from the neck down because of spinal muscular atrophy, testified about the issue at a public hearing last month and spoke last week at a Statehouse news conference in support of Lightford’s bill.

“We deserve to be heard, and we won’t be ignored,” said Cleeton, adding that he was speaking on behalf of tens of thousands of Illinoisans with disabilities.

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