The Illinois House of Representatives approved the Dignity in Pay Act (HB793) on Thursday, May 23rd, 2024, aiming to eliminate the state's subminimum wage for workers with disabilities. Passed with a 78-30 vote, the bill mandates that employers pay people with disabilities the full state minimum wage starting January 1st, 2030.

The legislation includes a $2 million fund for the Illinois Department of Human Services to provide grants to organizations employing people with disabilities, assisting their transition to the new wage structure. The bill also amends the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force Act, requiring the Task Force to collaborate with the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities and an academic partner to develop a multi-year plan to phase out Section 14(c) certificates by December 31st, 2029.

Supporters, including disability rights activist Nick Boyle, argue that the bill promotes equality and integration for workers with disabilities. Boyle emphasized the importance of fair wages and changing societal perceptions, highlighting that only about 4% of the 3 million workers with disabilities in the U.S. earn less than the minimum wage. Despite the small percentage, that's still nearly 120,000 workers across the United States.

Opponents, such as House Minority Leader Tony McCombie and Community Link Executive Director John Huelskamp, express concerns that the bill could lead to the closure of organizations that employ people with disabilities due to financial constraints. They argue that current infrastructure and funding are inadequate to support the mandated wage increase.

Despite the debate, the bill's gradual implementation allows time for necessary adjustments. The Dignity in Pay Act reflects a broader national effort to ensure fair wages for workers with disabilities, aligning with initiatives highlighted during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

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