November 29, 2022

In Virtual Roundtable, Duckworth, Schakowsky Emphasize that Community Care is a Necessity, Not a Luxury


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who has been a strong advocate for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), joined a virtual roundtable last night with Caring Across Generations and a coalition of Illinois care advocates. The lawmakers underscored the urgent need for federal support for the array of care programs and caregivers that provide invaluable support to families across Illinois.

“We don’t thank or support our care providers nearly enough,” said Senator Duckworth. “Think of the many seniors and neighborhoods that they support. Think of how they show up with compassion every single day to care for our family members and loved ones. There’s no reason why they should be underpaid or forgotten, and I plan to keep pushing in Washington for care programs and providers to get the federal support and compensation to continue their incredibly important work.”

“Care infrastructure is infrastructure,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “You cannot have a strong, successful country and economy if people do not have adequate care for their children and elders. Home and community-based services allow Americans to receive the quality long-term care they need, in the comfort of their own communities. Yet far too many people are forced to enter nursing homes or placed on long waitlists because of chronic underinvestment in care workers. We must start paying a livable wage to caregivers, who are predominately women of color, and we must value unpaid family caregivers by offering compensation in acknowledgment of their contribution to society. I will not rest until our hardworking care workers have the resources they need and deserve.”

“Tens of thousands of families across Illinois struggle to find and afford care from its underfunded and outdated patchwork of programs that rely on a severely underpaid direct care workforce,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of Caring Across Generations. “Today, caregivers, care workers, along with the disabled and older Illinoisans who need care across the lifespan came together to imagine a different reality. We will continue to push for funding for Medicaid home and community-based services as a critical first step in fully funding our care infrastructure. I look forward to working with the growing coalition of Illinois care advocates and care champions in Congress like Senator Duckworth and Congresswoman Schakowsky to win the changes we all deserve."

“Home and community-based services are critical to the long-term care that people of all backgrounds rely on across Illinois,” said Brigitte Dietz, Health and Aging Policy Analyst for Illinois Aging Together, a campaign of the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group. “We demand inclusive and supportive care, human rights, and that people be able to live where they wish. These systems of care matter to all of us to support our families and communities––and for our own selves as we age.”

“Unless you've been on the giving or receiving end of home care, it's hard to understand what a huge impact it has on people's lives,” Margaret Heywood-Smith, SEIU-HCII. “I do so much for people—it can be help with taking a shower, getting dressed, making a meal, picking up for them—anything that someone can't do for themselves anymore. We make it possible for people to stay in their homes, and for them to feel at home because their needs are met. But there aren't enough of us, there aren't enough services, and those of us who do this for a living can barely afford to live. It's time people starting caring more about home care and home care workers.”

“Care work is deeply underestimated as a critical socioeconomic driver holding our nation together,” said Amber Smock, Advocacy Director at Access Living. “Likewise, the national socioeconomic contributions of those who rely on care work is also deeply undervalued. The full freedom of people with disabilities goes hand in hand with good wages, training and support for those who provide our direct support and personal care.”

During the roundtable, Duckworth and Schakowsky discussed federal legislation and highlighted their advocacy for long-term resources for Illinois’s care system, including affordable care for families and adequate pay for caregivers who are largely underpaid women of color.

Duckworth and Schakowsky were joined by Caring Across Generations, Access Living, The Arc, Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Jane Adams Senior Caucus, Illinois Aging Together and SEIU-HCII.