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Home Caregivers say Relationships Threatened by Overtime Rules

Advocates say some long-term relationships between caregivers and home-bound residents are threatened because of the state's effort to cut overtime hours. (Virginia Carter)
Advocates say some long-term relationships between caregivers and home-bound residents are threatened because of the state's effort to cut overtime hours. (Virginia Carter)
October 3, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) holds a public hearing today about overtime rules for the Home Services Program. It's a state program that sends home-care assistants to help people with severe disabilities.

In May, the state put new rules into place limiting those workers to 35 hours a week per client, and not more than 40 hours a week total. After much public outcry and a class-action lawsuit, the state rescinded those limits - but Gary Arnold, manager of public affairs for Access Living, says Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration is trying to find a way to reinstate them.

Arnold says limiting hours of care is a hardship for workers who are already underpaid, and has a huge impact on those who need their help.

"What's going to happen is, you're going to see people being forced to go back into nursing homes because they're losing their support system in the community," Arnold warns. "And in the nursing home, it's going to cost Illinois a lot more money."

Gov. Rauner has said he believes there is overtime abuse in the home-health field. This summer, he also vetoed legislation that would have set a minimum wage of $15 an hour for home-care workers.

Arnold adds the relationships that home-bound people have developed with those who help them are being threatened because the state has a budget that's in the red.

"These are intimate jobs that are being done, and are very difficult jobs that are being done, and people don't just want anybody coming in," he explains. "They want the people who they trust and who they have these established relationships with."

Dozens of people with disabilities and home-care workers are expected to testify at the DHS hearing today.

Among the groups represented will be Access Living, Caring Across Generations, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Chicago ADAPT, and SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL