Chicago Home-Care Workers Rally for Better Pay, Benefits
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
CHICAGO - Home-care workers in Chicago joined a national day of action Tuesday, urging Congress to prioritize funding for what's become known as the "care economy."
The White House and Congress are in negotiations over whether to include funding for well-paid union jobs with benefits in the care sector in an infrastructure deal.
The pandemic highlighted the critical importance of home-care workers, and Patricia Evans, a caregiver with Help at Home, a private agency that cares for seniors and people with disabilities in Illinois, said she believes fair pay, benefits and paid leave should come with that recognition.
"It seems nonsensical that you wouldn't give health coverage to somebody who's taking care of somebody who's potentially sick or who's elderly," she said, "and they're a more at-risk population, so you want to send healthy people into their environment."
The Biden plan would increase access to home-care under the Medicaid program. Evans added that women, and especially women of color, are more often the ones who leave their jobs to care for family members, which affects their income and ability to save for retirement. However, opponents say the care economy isn't "traditional" infrastructure, and should be considered separately.
Evans said the need for support for these jobs affects not only home-care providers, but also their clients. She noted there's high turnover in the field, because when caregivers aren't paid enough, they often have to juggle multiple jobs along with their own lives and families.
"It takes time to help train someone to do the task the way you like," she said, "and then, plus, because we're able to go into the homes, family members don't have to quit their job to stay home and take care of their family member. So, it's like we're a team - we're helping them, they're helping us."
Evans said one of the things she likes best about her job is helping people stay in their own homes and communities longer than they might be able to otherwise. She added that improving the home-care sector also would save the health-care system money on nursing-home costs.
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