The state of Illinois’ ongoing budget crisis continues to adversely impact millions of people. Add to that number the 27,000 Illinois residents with developmental and emotional disabilities who rely on direct support professionals for their daily care and support.
DSPs have not had a pay raise in eight years, earning an average of $9.35 an hour. The lack of a living wage provided by the state has made it virtually impossible to recruit and retain qualified staff. These are the people who provide daily personal care — such as bathing and dressing — teach life skills and support to our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Why would people engage in such physically and emotionally draining work when they could earn $12.70 an hour to start at Macy’s? Or go to Amazon, which is hiring 500 workers at its Joliet warehouse, for $12.46 an hour?
The inability to compete with other employers is at unprecedented levels, with staff vacancies at some human service providers as high as 30 percent. Without an increase in state funding, this crisis will only grow.
But there is a solution: Two bills have been introduced into the Illinois legislature this year to increase the starting wages of DSPs to $15 an hour. Even if you are not personally affected, you almost certainly have relatives or neighbors who regard these folks as their lifeline. Or perhaps someday a loved one will be in a devastating accident and will depend on DSPs for round-the-clock care?
These bills will save lives.
— Art Dykstra, executive director, Trinity Services, Inc., New Lenox