Legislators and the Governor passed a stopgap state budget yesterday. How does it directly impact SU? Not at all. We’ve been fortunate that our residential and developmental training services have been paid all along due to a court order. With no exaggeration, we would have closed by now were it not for this court order, which thankfully has been extended through state fiscal year 2017. We still won’t be paid for the contracted janitorial services we provide at the Illinois State Police Headquarters. It seems likely we’ll have to go to the Court of Clams for that, which can take a very long time. There was no help for wages for direct care staff (or for the other expenses which have risen in the decade since we last got an increase).
Our over-riding concern continues to be the administration’s apparent desire to do away with small social service agencies and only contract with large one, as stated by Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, describing it as “a necessary shakeout” and as “starving the beast.” We would ask that people oppose this policy. We think smaller agencies, rooted in their communities, will be better for people than large, multi-state corporations.
One example occurred yesterday, while we were having to turn around state contracts for FY17, which begins today, in incredibly short order. One state agency with whom we work reinstated the requirement for national accreditation, which the previous administration had waived due to agencies’ financial hardship. We believe accreditation is a good practice, but when you’re scrambling just to keep your homes staffed, it’s not something worth spending large amounts of time you don’t have plus $10-20,000 on. In the past few months we have had 6 separate state surveys which looked at all aspects of our organization. That required a lot of time on our part, but we do believe the state should be making sure providers are doing a good job. Requiring accreditation on top of this may not be a big matter for large agencies, but for agencies the size of SU it’s a big deal and a drain on limited resources.
Slightly older news, but a first-time mention in this paper. Our focus is always our mission to serve adults with disabilities, but we do so many small things that impact the community that is so supportive of us.
The state dropped in unannounced this week to do the annual survey of our Developmental Training Program. We were very pleased to earn a 98%. If you’d like to see the survey report, it’s on our “Documents and Reports” page.
The Illinois House and the Illinois Senate will be hearing bills to increase funding so that Direct Care Employees can make a living wage. If y you’d like to express your support, you can fill out a witness slip for both the House and Senate Bills. Our direct care staff truly deserve better wages for the important work they do, and shouldn’t have to leave the field in order to make a living wage.
This article was not new information for us. Sometimes we feel like a broken record talking about the lack of state funding. Sometimes we worry that people will think that’s what we’re going to keep saying forever and forever and it will never be enough. This article is a good reminder that it’s not us, it’s the state.Where we are really feeling the strain right now is in staffing. It’s very difficult to hire and keep direct care staff due to the fact that we can’t afford to offer higher wages. It’s a big deal and keeps getting worse. We can agree that the state does indeed have its own financial difficulties. We can also agree that they could be doing better for people with disabilities.
The first battle is from 5-6 and features our own Sherri Stephens and Stephanie Harcharik vs. our own Board Members Nate Hovious and Jerry Justice. Stephanie wants you to know she and Sherri will be taking donations ahead of time as well, so as to crush their competition. Thank you Hardscrabble Lions!
I’ts a very rough time for recruitment and retention of staff for those incredibly important direct care positions. The problem is state-wide. No increase in 10 years, plus cuts to our grants in the meantime, makes it hard to offer competitive wages. It’s unfortunate–we’ve lost staff who love our consumers and the work they do with them, but who need to make a living wage. There is a bill in the house at the moment to raise these wages to $15/hour. It is here.