SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WRSP) — A Senate bill just passed to raise AFCSME minimum wage to $15, an increase for personnel who assist the disabled, called "direct support personnel".
Wednesday thousands of letters, in the form of postcards, hit the Governor's desk urging for change.
One mother said her frustration with her disabled son was coming to a breaking point when DSP came into their lives.
"Our life was falling apart,” Charlotte Cronin, mother to a 31-year-old disabled son, said. “It escalated so much that we could not help him at home."
Cronic’s son, Daniel, had pervasive developmental disorder, or extreme disabilities.
“I was literally afraid,” Cronin said. “That in response to the fact that he was hurting us constantly that we would hurt him back."
Wednesday AFSCME pushed to increase the minimum wage to $15 for all DSP who care for the disabled in Illinois. It's a renewed request after Governor Bruce Rauner claimed last year to address it in the proposed budget, when in the end, he did not.
"As you can see,” Kim Zoeller, President, and CEO of Ray Graham Association said. “This is a statewide crisis and it's something that must be responded to, to now"
DSP said it's about a $6 increase and will help over 24,000 workers.
"This has made me very concerned about where I’m going to live,” one DSP Christine Riveria said. “Because I can't afford to live on my own with the wages that I make, and it really hurts, but I’m going to have to think about, can I continue working in this field which I am so passionate about, so passionate about."
But the Illinois Department of Human Services said the increase just won't work, as it would cost upwards of $300,000,000 dollars annually, putting Illinois in more debt.
"The state has no way to pay for that right now,” DHS Chief of Staff, Fred Flather said, “That’s why this issue can't be divorced from the current budget situation in Illinois. While pay rates for direct support professionals is a priority for the governor’s office, the appropriate way to talk about that right now is in the context of a balanced budget."
But Cronin said many families depend on DSP and a wage increase could keep them from leaving the profession.
“I would like Daniel,” she said. “First off to be safe, and second to have joy..."
The Senate bill passed Wednesday 36-20. Now it heads to the House.
AFSCME said many DSP workers are suffering from exhaustion and staffing challenges; they say the wage increase is the answer to their problems.