$15 Minimum Wage in Sight for Illinois Home Care Workers

As home care workers and state governments nationwide deal with the consequences of various wage rules, home care workers in one Midwestern state are holding their breath.

In that state—Illinois—home care workers may soon make at least $15 an hour.

The Illinois House of Representatives approved legislation on May 18 that raises about 24,000 home care workers’ wages from $13 per hour to $15 per hour. The bill, SB2931, will now be sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature—though it is unclear whether or not he will sign it.

The proposal would cost an additional $87 million per year and would result in cuts to other state programs, Catherine Kelly, a spokeswoman for Rauner, told The Associated Press. SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union representing the state’s home care workers, expressed support for the House’s approval of the legislation.

“The legislation that passed will preserve the training that keeps the cared-for safe; preserve the health insurance that keeps the caregiving workforce healthy and saves taxpayer dollars; and ensure that the lowest-paid workforce in the state is able to stay on the job and provide a continuity in care for seniors, children and people with disabilities,” Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said in a prepared statement.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois could continue negotiating wages higher than $15, AP reported.

Illinois has experienced its fair share of turbulence on the subject of home care wages. In April, the state had more than $235 million in backlog payments to home health care service providers, due to Rauner’s nine-month budget standoff in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

Additionally, thousands of Illinois home care workers are not receiving time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours a week, even though they are eligible for it under a rule that took effect Jan. 1.

The state can’t afford the additional pay without a budget in place to control spending, according to Rauner. Rauner and the Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature have reached a stalemate over a budget that was supposed to go into effect July 1.

Wage rules aren’t just hitting Illinois caregivers hard. Many home care agencies in Minnesota, for example, are cutting hours and rescheduling employees to avoid paying travel costs and overtime.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson