- Published: Monday, October 17, 2016 04:13 PM
CHICAGO – Christine Rivera cares for six men who are developmentally disabled and live together in a Downers Grove group home. The work can be grueling and physically demanding, but it also is gratifying, she testified Monday during a Senate Human Services Committee hearing in Chicago.
But after 15 years of caring for people who are developmentally disabled, Rivera makes just $11.90 per hour based on rates set by the State of Illinois. Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation this year that would have given caregivers like her a long-overdue raise to $15 per hour.
Low salaries are largely responsible for a severe statewide staffing problem that prevents developmentally disabled residents from getting services they need and deserve. Organizations that offer the services on behalf of the state are unable to expand programs or hire more caregivers because people can earn more at many other jobs, including, for example, at a fast-food restaurant.
The result is a backlog of nearly 19,000 developmentally disabled Illinoisans in desperate need of services, with little hope of receiving them anytime soon.
Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), chairman of the Human Services Committee, said it’s time for the legislature to take a stand for workers like Rivera and the families that rely on them to care for their loved ones.
“Today we heard the best explanation we could ever hope for about why the legislature must override the governor’s veto,” Biss said. “This crisis is causing justifiable and extraordinary anxiety for many Illinois families. We have to offer decent living wages to these caregivers if we are to have any hope at all of resolving this problem.”