Letter to Supporters, June 1, 2018

Thank you for your unwavering support and the actions you took to help give voice to the critical need to fund those who care for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Your stories, your emails, your calls kept us in front of legislators and decision-makers day after day, and we know it made a difference in being included at all in the FY2019 budget.

Unfortunately, rather than bringing direct support professionals (DSPs) up to a livable wage -- $13.50 per hour now and $15 in 2020 – we received a much smaller number. We are grateful to have received something in the budget, but it amounts to a 50-cent per hour increase for DSPs.  While we understand that reaching the overall state budget compromise required many difficult decisions, we are very disappointed that the increase is not sufficient to address the staffing crisis that is so harmful to people with disabilities and their families.  

Agencies that support people with disabilities waited nearly a decade for an increase in the average starting wage for direct support professionals (DSPs) while all around us, minimum wage is going up; and retail, fast food and warehouse jobs offer better salaries than we can. This lack of state funding has led to devastating outcomes for those who rely on direct support staff for daily care and support. Community homes have closed, hundreds of caregiver positions have gone unfilled, and nearly 20,000 children and adults with disabilities have languished on a state waiting list for services. On a daily basis we are scrambling to cover shifts, letting down people with disabilities who rely on us for safe and fulfilling lives.

Last year’s budget was an important first step -- a 75-cent per hour raise after nine years of nothing, which helped us get over the $10 mark with average starting wages for DSPs. To get even less this year – a 50-cent per hour raise – is a small help, but it doesn’t come close to solving the problem. On July 1, mandated minimum wages are going up once again in Chicago ($12 an hour) and Cook County ($11 an hour), with private sector wages for entry level workers far outstripping DSP pay. The caregiver crisis is set to continue unabated.

We plan to fight on in the fall for state funding that provides for a living wage for those who care for people with disabilities – we cannot wait another year of revolving doors and closing homes and programs. We appreciate the incremental support and we will continue to urge the state to do more for its citizens who need the most support. We hope we can continue to count on your advocacy.

The They Deserve More Coalition


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