Earlier this month, it was decided that nearly 28,000 low-income Illinois caregivers for people with disabilities will finally receive the $.48 raise that the General Assembly approved in last summer’s budget deal. The $.48 raise was supposed to have gone into effect on August 5, 2017 per state law that says, “Within 30 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 100th General Assembly, the hourly wage paid to personal assistants and individual maintenance home health workers [in the DHS Home Services Program] shall be increased by $0.48 per hour.” P.A. 100-0023, Article 30, Section 30-20.
The workers have waited nearly seven months for the wage increase after Governor Rauner moved to withhold it, but the Cook County Circuit Court’s new ruling orders say that the State must implement the $.48-cent raise for all hours worked since August 5, 2017 by March 21, 2018. This is the first pay raise these workers have received since 2014.
Poverty rates are high among caregivers for people with disabilities and most of these workers in Illinois earn a mere $10 an hour, driving nearly 40 percent to rely on some form of public assistance and 26 percent to live in households below the federal poverty line, compared to 7 percent of the state’s workers.
Personal Care Workers Hold Many Different Titles and Responsibilities
Public and private health care providers will hire personal care workers to assist in the daily care of elderly or the needs of disabled individuals. These workers typically live in the patient’s home and provide day-to-day care with limited employment stability and benefits. Home care worker occupational categories are defined by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). These home care worker occupation titles and responsibilities include:
Personal Care Aides: (Personal Care Attendant, Home Care Worker, Personal Assistant, and Direct Support Professionals for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities) In addition to providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), personal care aides often help with housekeeping chores, meal preparation, and medication management. They also help individuals go to work and remain engaged in their communities.
Independent Providers: Independent providers resemble personal care aides in their responsibilities. They are often employed through Medicaid programs that offer consumer-directed services. These programs grant consumers varying degrees of control over the hiring, scheduling, and paying of home care workers. Because employment data is drawn from surveys of establishments, independent providers are often not counted or undercounted in employment estimates.
Home Health Aides: (Home Hospice Aide, Home Health Attendant) In addition to providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), home health aides also perform clinical tasks such as range-of-motion exercises and blood pressure readings. They assist people under the supervision of a nurse or therapist.
Nursing Assistants: (Certified Nursing Assistants, Certified Nursing Aides, Nursing Attendants, Nursing Aides, Nursing Care Attendants) Nursing assistants primarily work in institutional settings, but nursing assistant credentials are sometimes portable to home and community-based settings, where they perform essentially the same work as home health aides.
The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) reported in 2015 that more than 81,000 Illinois home care workers provide personal assistance and health care support to older Americans and people with disabilities in home and community-based settings.
Personal Care Assistants Often Poorly Paid for Most Difficult Work
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for personal care aides was $20,980 in May 2015. The BLS also reported a median salary for home health aides of $21,920, at that same time. With a median hourly wage of $10.59, home care workers in Illinois earn on average $12,600 annually.
In Illinois, recruiting adequate numbers of home care workers is becoming increasingly difficult, in part due to the poor quality of home care jobs: wages are low, work is sporadic, and access to employer-provided benefits is rare. Additionally, another hurdle is rising as the BLS projected employment to grow by 26 percent for personal care aides and 38 percent for home health aides from 2014-2024.
While this pay raise is moving in the right direction, the attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe it’s just not good enough. Since we are all too familiar with how poorly caregivers are paid and see how the burden they carry easily translates into a lower quality of care for our most vulnerable patients, more needs to be done. In addition, as the demands for home care services continue to grow, but trends among working-age adults drops, a significant care gap is starting to present itself. As that gap widens, a personal caregiver’s role in providing quality work will become increasingly important.
Valued Wages for Difficult Caregiving Work
For over 25 years, the attorneys of Levin & Perconti have worked with nursing assistants and personal care givers to protect their rights. Personal care assistants have tough jobs and they must be paid at least the federal minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In addition, the Home Care Final Rule makes sure that home care workers have the same basic wage protections as most U.S. workers, including those who perform the same jobs in nursing homes and group homes. Better wages for home care workers will also help to ensure that patients will have access to high-quality care in their homes from a supportive, accountable and valued workforce.
Our consultations are always free, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled attorneys. Click here to fill out an online request form or call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 if we can help you understand your rights as a personal care worker.