Letter to Suppporters, 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