Illinois Reaches ‘Historic’ Wage Increase Agreement with Home Care Workers

In what is being called a historic step forward on the wage and labor front, the state of Illinois recently reached two contract agreements with SEIU Healthcare Illinois — covering 30,000 home care workers.

“After years of instability, I’m proud these contracts deliver good wages and good benefits to the people who offer this critical care,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement from his office.

Prior to the agreement, caregivers and health care professionals had been working without an updated contract through the entirety of former Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration. Pritzker officially took over for Rauner in January 2019.

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“From the draconian [Home Services Program] overtime policy that Rauner unilaterally implemented that punished Personal Assistants and consumers, to the decimation of CCAP [Child Care Assistance Program] enrollment through drastic eligibility changes and the illegal withholding of raises these workers were owed, our members endured constant hostility from the previous administration,” Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said in a press release. “[This] marks a new day for 45,000 caregivers in Illinois.”

The total of 45,000 caregivers includes 30,000 home care workers and 15,000 child care providers, according to SEIU.

Home care workers in the Illinois Department of Human Services Home Services Program (HSP) — which provides home care services for people with disabilities — are covered under the new contract.

Under the new contract, HSP caregivers will receive a 28% wage increase, bringing their pay to $17.25 per hour starting Dec. 1, 2022.

Overall, the provisions of the new contract fall in line with Illinois’ overall minimum wage increase.

In February, Gov. Pritzker signed a law raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 — a move that elicited praise from caregiver advocates while drawing criticism from home care industry leaders due to reimbursement concerns.

In November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved two Illinois budgeted rate increases that addressed the concerns of industry leaders. CMS’s rate increases — one effective Dec. 1, 2019, and one for Jan. 1, 2020 — are meant to balance the costs of previous minimum wage increases in Illinois.

Aside from the wage increase, the new contract implements paid sick time starting in 2021, includes funding to expand paid training programs and adds a new overtime policy for caregivers.

“The progress secured in these agreements is thanks to the frontline workers united in our union who never stopped advocating, organizing, and fighting for better futures for their families, their fellow caregivers, and the people they serve,” Kelley said in the statement.

While the reimbursement climate in Illinois is improving, it still remains relatively challenging on the whole, meaning the wage update could place added pressure on some employers facing tight margins.

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