Caregivers demand higher pay: 'People can't live on these wages'

Legislation is currently pending in the Senate that would raise wages for home care aides serving people through the Illinois Department on Aging's Community Care Program. (WCCU)

Home care aides who care for Illinois’ seniors asked lawmakers for a raise.

They said it would reduce the turnover in their field and improve seniors’ quality of care.

Pamela Kirk has been working as a home care aide for eight years.

Kirk said she loves her job, but it's tough to live on.

"People can't live on these wages,” Kirk said. “This is not a living wage. When you make less than $11 an hour and people are trying to support a family and pay their bills and not rely on extra help -- they're forced to."

Kirk’s not alone. Another home care aide, Gail Hamilton, who's been in the industry for three decades, said it's time the state starts giving them what they deserve.

"We can't continue to give workers a job without the respect and decency of a living wage," Hamilton said.

Legislation is currently pending in the Senate that would raise wages for home care aides serving people through the Illinois Department on Aging's Community Care Program.

The Department on Aging is opposed to the bill.

Michael Dropka, Illinois Department on Aging’s communications director, released the following statement to Newschannel 20:

"The Department is opposed to SB 3511. Caregivers are paid through providers who contract with the Department."

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the union that represents home care aides, said the current pay rate is causing high turnover in the industry.

The home care aides have a message for lawmakers:

"If they were in this situation, would they want a family member to be sent to a nursing home when they would have the choice to stay in their own home?" Kirk said. "And if it comes down to the workers’ wages being that fact, would you like to have that on your head? I wouldn't."

The state is currently conducting a rate study to determine appropriate wages for the Community Care Program.

Once that's complete, they'll work with the General Assembly to discuss potential rate adjustments.

The study is set to be finished in December of 2018.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home care aides in Illinois make an average of $11.70 an hour.

Nationally, the average is $0.24 lower, sitting at $11.46 an hour.

The bill pending in the Senate would raise home care aides’ wages $1 a year for four years.

Home care aides serving people through the Illinois Department on Aging's Community Care Program assist roughly 100,000 seniors.

"The worker deserves to have a wage increase; the client deserves to be in their own home and well taken care of," Kirk said.

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