‘They Deserve More’ Campaign Delivers Pay Raise for Caregivers

For nine years, Illinois workers who care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities saw their already-low wages stagnate. State funding for these essential caregivers—direct support professionals (DSPs)—had stalled at about $9 per hour, below the federal poverty level. The staffing crisis caused by this lack of funding has led to devastating outcomes for those who rely on direct support staff for daily care and support — community homes have closed, hundreds of caregiver positions have gone unfilled, and nearly 20,000 children and adults with disabilities have languished on a state waiting list for services.

This long period of State inaction finally ended on July 6, when legislators included $53 million in the state budget to provide a small DSP wage increase; a start. At a time when many service sectors received state funding cuts, this 75-cent per hour raise represents an important first step toward providing DSPs a living wage and solving the staffing crisis harming people with disabilities.

This action in Springfield came on the heels of a three-month statewide campaign to build support for a DSP wage increase. “They Deserve More” launched in early April after JT was retained by a small group of nonprofit agencies in Illinois that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The General Assembly had passed a DSP wage increase in 2016, only to see it vetoed by the Governor. JT’s goal: Avoid the same fate in 2017.

With little time remaining in the legislative session, JT worked closely with agency lobbyists to quickly to develop and execute a multipronged campaign that included messaging and branding, coalition-building and activation, digital and video, and media relations. Our work on behalf of this important issue:

  • Resulted in more than 30 news stories covering the DSP wage issues, including a front-page article in the Chicago Tribune.
  • Increased the size of the They Deserve More coalition from six to more than 50 providers and associations
  • Generated 62,000 videos views in under a week; a shorter, repurposed video received another 61,000 views in just 24 hours.
  • Over 20 DSP stories generated through the They Deserve more website.

Buoyed by this important first victory, They Deserve More plans to stay in front of legislators and the Governor’s office until a competitive, livable wage is achieved … because children and adults in Illinois with disabilities and their families deserve more, much more.