Illinois Poised to Deny Overtime to Home Care Workers

Could a contentious budget situation in Illinois force the hiring of more home care workers statewide?

Possibly. Under a federal rule that went into effect Jan. 1, thousands of Illinois home care workers are eligible for time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Still, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has said it can’t afford the additional pay without a state budget in place to control spending, The Associated Press reported.

Rauner, a Republican, and the Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature have reached a stalemate over a budget that was supposed to go into effect July 1. Democrats want a tax hike and spending cuts to cope with a large budget deficit, while Rauner wants Democrats to bend first on business-friendly changes and measure that would weaken unions, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, the passage of a new Illinois Home Services Program overtime policy requires home care workers who work overtime to cap their hours to 40 hours a week, unless their patients are approved for overtime beginning March 1.

An Illinois Department of Human Services memo says the policy will permit 35 hours of work and five hours of travel.

Additionally, patients with service plans that surpass 35 hours are required to hire extra home care workers.

The policy states that home care patients may be eligible for overtime hours if they meet a determination of need score of 70 or higher, demonstrate an “exceptional care rate,” experience an “extraordinary circumstance” related to safety or health, or own “a court-ordered service plan that exceeds HSP costs.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services estimates that there are about 33,000 active home care workers and more than 27,000 patients in the home services program, according to the Medill News Service. Approximately 26,000 of the active home care workers work in any given period.

Additionally, data provided to Chicago-based organization Access Living from the Illinois Department of Human Services show that an estimated 6,000 home care providers worked over 40 hours a week at least once between July and December 2015, Medill reported. Many of those are family members who are caring for loved ones and being paid through the state’s program.

It is also anticipated that approximately 4,524 patients will have to hire additional home care workers.

Between patients and customers, approximately 10,524 people will be impacted by the new policy, Medill reported.

The Rauner administration wants to control expenses in the absence of a full-year spending plan, according to Illinois Department of Human Services spokeswoman Marianne Manko. She does not know how much overtime would cost if home care workers kept working the number of hours they do currently.

The policy is intended to positively affect home care workers and taxpayers, while not impacting the level of care patients receive, Manko told Medill.

“It guarantees that employees do get time and a half,” she said. “But we’re asking the providers to be responsible and not wasteful with taxpayers’ dollars. If it’s not necessary for someone to work time and a half, we don’t want them to. Because we don’t know how much more this is going to cost.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson