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Home Health Workers Ask For Higher Wages

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  There are thousands of personal support workers in Illinois — home care workers who provide support to developmentally disabled people, and those with other special needs. Advocates say the average wage for the field is just over nine dollars and they're calling for an increase.

Tressa Wilson is one of the thousands of personal support workers in Illinois who see to the needs of those with disabilities — needs ranging from feeding and bathing to companionship and general care.

Wilson, who lives in Rockford, also has four daughters to take care of. And after working 12 years in the field, she said earning $10.51 an hour isn't cutting it for her family.

"I must work overtime to make ends meet to feed me and my kids, keep a roof over our head," she said. "I refuse to go to public assistance, that's something that I don't want to do."

Wilson traveled to Springfield in support of legislation sponsored by Representative Robyn Gabel, a Democrat from Evanston. Gabel wants to increase the hourly wage of these workers to $13 by 2016.

"When we put money into the pockets of low-income workers, that money goes right into the economy and the economy starts to grow," she said.

Supporters of the increase say the low wages lead to high-turnover, which hurts disabled individuals in their care.

Charlotte Cronin is a mother who depends on personal support workers for her son Daniel. Daniel, who is 28, has severe developmental disabilities that make it difficult for Cronin to care for him by herself. Cronin praised the work of PSWs, saying they deserve better pay.

"They are the glue that holds (Daniel's) life together," she said. "In return, they are paid such low wages that it begs the imagination. They deserve better. They deserve much, much better. We should be ashamed."

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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