Governor Pritzker presented his Budget Address yesterday, laying out his plans for state spending for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins July 1. The DHS Briefing Page can be found here. In terms of good news, he proposes funding to increase wages for our direct care staff. This is important because they don’t fund us well enough for them to make a decent wage. Sometimes they end up leaving a job they love in order to make more money. The proposal is to increase DSP wages by $1.00/hour July 1 and another $.50/hour January 1, 2021. This would help us keep up with the rising minimum wage and begin to get a little ahead of the increases, which is critical. We appreciate the Governor’s recognition of the importance of the work we do. We also appreciate everyone who brought the Ligas lawsuit against the state, which puts pressure on them to fund the service system as well.
Here is the relevant page from the budget powerpoint presentation:
Our DSPs are the heart and soul of our agency, and the care they give to the people we serve is why we do everything we do. However, we deal with an incredible amount of regulatory requirements and state surveys, pay for financial audits and accreditation, maintain a fleet of vehicles and maintain our homes and main building. These costs go up as well and the employees who perform this work deserve the state’s recognition in terms of funding as well.
What’s next? Advocacy! Just because the Governor proposes a budget, it rarely turns out the same once the Illinois House and Senate do their own work to come to agreement on what the spending priorities of the state should be. We fought last year to tie DSP wages to the increasing minimum wage and failed. That won’t stop us from fighting once again–what we do is too important not to fight.
The They Deserve More Coalition has put together a legislative agenda, asking for a 20% increase in funding, mostly for those important DSP wages but also some for other staff and other expenses that keep going up. Here are links to the bills that have been filed in the Illinois House and Senate. It would be great if you could ask your state representative and senator to become co-sponsors of these bills. That way they will know what’s important to us as they make the difficult decisions of what the state should fund when there’s not enough money to do everything they want to.