Illinois Rallies for Home Care Justice, Better Investment in Community Supports


July 2, 2020 | by Amber Smock

Access Living friends and allies:

Yesterday Access Living joined our allies at SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana and the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, as well as countless disability and labor advocates across the country, in a National Home Care Day of Action.

Here in Illinois, rallies took place in Chicago, Rockford, Merilllville, Alton, Peoria, Carbondale, and Springfield. The rally in Chicago featured Access Living consumer advocate Michael Grice. The Illinois rallies were also celebrating a new wage increase for personal assistants who work under the Illinois DRS Home Services Program.

Because the lives of millions of people with disabilities and support workers are bound together, we fight together for changes that will benefit us all.

Home care workers may also be known as personal assistants, personal care assistants, attendants, homemakers, or other terms. This workforce is mainly women, and mainly Black and brown women. More than a quarter are immigrants. Many have disabilities themselves, and the majority struggle to make a living wage. There are few benefits and no retirement security.

Right now, the Covid-19 pandemic is deeply affecting the lives of both people with disabilities and home care workers.

People lack access to protective personal equipment. Workers don’t have access to pandemic pay. Turnover is high and recruiting new workers is difficult. States need to take big steps to stabilize this crucial workforce so that all of us can live our lives without fearing for our health, safety, and futures.

The Covid-19 death toll has only highlighted what we have known for a long time: that our current system of congregate settings for people with disabilities and seniors is inadequate.

With at least 40% of the U.S. Covid-19 death toll being in congregate settings, the time is now for real change. It’s not just ableism. It’s racism, too. Black and Latinx congregate settings have been more likely to be hard by Covid-19. Far too many are trapped in congregate settings with no supports to get out, whether or not they want to be there or need to be there. The situation is an absolute nightmare for both workers and those who live in congregate settings.

We are proud to speak out with our community partners to demand real justice for all who rely on, and work in, home and community based services.

Workers deserve pandemic pay. We need action to reduce the number of people in congregate settings. We need to end the denial of independence and dignity for all of us, not just in Illinois but nationwide. For further reading, see this NPR story about the future of home health care. Together, let’s keep up the hard work towards liberation for all of us.