August 30, 2016; Chicago Tribune, “Daily Southtown”

Nonprofit “wage ghettos,” those very-low-paid fields that involve direct care of the very vulnerable, are a problem the nonprofit sector must face up to. They create a context in which failure to provide a living wage is a violation of community standards and a disgrace to the nonprofit sector. You will hear quite a bit about this issue from us in the next few months, but we wanted to acknowledge it specifically as Labor Day is celebrated.

In a post to the Chicago Tribune’s Southtown section, Trinity Services decries the vetoing of House Bill 5931 by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. This measure, known as the Community Disability Living Wage Act, would have provided a $15 minimum wage for community disability service providers and allowed provider agencies to stabilize their workforces.

Critics noted that the bill’s immediate 40 percent wage increase did not include an identified revenue source. As NPQ’s nonprofit newswire has reported, Illinois faces a continuing budget crisis that has been especially stressful for education, healthcare, and nonprofit services in the state.

State reimbursement rates for these services have not been increased in eight years, and the salary for those providing care for the 27,000 Illinoisans with intellectual and developmental disabilities now averages $9.35 an hour. Advocates say that Rauner’s veto “will only deepen the crisis that has already put the state of Illinois in violation of a federal consent decree, forced [direct support professionals, or DSPs] to work for poverty wages and jeopardized quality of care for vulnerable children and adults.”

Trinity writes of these staff:

Their work can be taxing, as they often face challenging and problematic behavior while assisting people who struggle with anger management or communication problems.

The low wage directly hurts people with disabilities by impacting the quality of the care they are able to receive. High staff vacancy rates result in DSPs working excessive overtime, which not only takes a toll on their health, but their personal lives as well.

The large provider agencies in Illinois are speaking out to try to get the measure reinstated in the full state budget. A statement from Little City is here. —Ruth McCambridge