Imagine, for a moment, waking up as dawn begins to break, the birds already chirping, your eyes heavy with fatigue for you can’t remember the last time you got a full, restful night’s sleep. You’re exhausted, your body hurts, and yet you need to get up and get moving. There are people counting on you. You are a home care aide.
Unfortunately, because of bureaucratic inefficiencies (as some may call malfeasance), you’ll be heading off to work, putting in a long, physically exhausting day supporting elderly and disabled clients, but you won’t be getting a paycheck anytime soon.
That’s because in Illinois, at least, legislators argued like immature children on a playground over a budget, leaving nearly 50,000 home care aides and family caregivers without any reimbursement for the work they provided. Finally, two years later they have come to an agreement and these individuals will be getting some payments.
As reported by the Associated Press in a news article published by WQAD 8 titled, Illinois home health care workers to get back pay this week:
“Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Monday that her office will release the $30.7 million in back wages to the Department of Human Services to be issued Friday. SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that they had reached a deal on the back pay and rate increases in March.
About 28,000 personal assistants in the agency’s home care program were scheduled to receive a 48-cent raise in August 2017. Last year’s state budget includes a 4.26 percent rate increase for 14,000 workers in the child-care program. Neither had been paid by the prior administration. Authorities said those increases were to take effect April 1.”
Some of the 49,000 workers had been receiving pay, but not the raises promised them. Other workers had not been receiving a paycheck for almost two years, yet they continued to show up and support their clients, mostly because they knew if they didn’t, those elderly or disabled individuals could be left without any support whatsoever.
States continued to struggle with budget constraints, deficits, and trying to figure out how to keep up with the increasing demand for in-home care. While home care support services help to save states money compared to nursing home costs, some legislators seem to take this as a license to continue cutting reimbursement rates through Medicaid for these in-home care services. Taking two years to resolve an impasse is, sadly, an insult to those workers who are dedicated to providing options for residents to remain home.
Perhaps next time those legislators can stop paying themselves until they solve their budget impasse. Things might happen faster as a result.