K.L. Cleeton says he is fortunate to have consistent home-care workers whose services for more than a decade have allowed him to graduate from college, operate a small business and avoid a nursing home. But Cleeton, 31, an Effingham resident who deals with a form of muscular dystrophy and whose parents are paid by the
K.L. Cleeton says he is fortunate to have consistent home-care workers whose services for more than a decade have allowed him to graduate from college, operate a small business and avoid a nursing home.
But Cleeton, 31, an Effingham resident who deals with a form of muscular dystrophy and whose parents are paid by the state to provide 24-hour care, told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin many people with disabilities aren’t as lucky.
“Those who do this work are held down by low wages, few benefits and too often, no voice on the job,” Cleeton said Monday during a “town hall” meeting with Durbin, D-Springfield, at the headquarters of NAACP Springfield. “That leads to passionate care workers getting fed up and leaving their jobs, or even leaving the industry altogether, which is bad for consumers like me.”
Cleeton was among about 20 people at the meeting who called on Durbin, D-Springfield, to help enact President Joe Biden’s proposed $400 billion American Jobs Plan.
The multi-year plan, supported by both Durbin and Illinois’ other U.S. senator, Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, would boost the federal Medicaid match in Illinois and nationwide to expand the number of home-care workers and boost their pay.
Durbin said Democrats who hold a one-vote majority in the Senate hope to pass the legislation in the fall through a process known as “reconciliation” in which only a simple majority is needed so Republicans couldn’t block the plan with a filibuster.
The measure would be paid for through increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, Durbin said.
“I want to bring dignity to caregiving and respect to the people who provide it,” he said. “We’re not paying them enough. We’re not giving them the respect they deserve.
“The home-care workforce has proven how important their work is time and time again, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m proud to support the Better Care Better Jobs Act to invest in home-care services and fortify the workforce, ensuring caregivers are paid a fair, living wage and to offer more choices and independence for people with disabilities and older Americans.”
Good home-care services save taxpayers money in the long run by helping elderly and disabled people remain in their homes as long as possible and avoid nursing homes and other institutions, Durbin said. Care in institutions is typically more expensive for the Medicaid program than home care.
But according to the Service Employees International Union, even though wages for home-care workers have increased in recent years, the median wage remains $11.62 per hour, with a median yearly income of $15,500.
Twenty percent of home-care workers live below the poverty level, and more than 55% rely on some form of public assistance, according to SEIU Healthcare.
SEIU Healthcare represents about 60,000 of the 85,000 home-care workers in Illinois, and they fare slightly better than the average when it comes to pay. But Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said the American Jobs Plan represents a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to expand and improve the home-care workforce as a tsunami of aging Americans approaches.
Duckworth said in a news release, “This bill would expand home and community community-based services while also investing in caregivers — largely women and people of color — to ensure they are paid fair wages and treated like the essential workers that they are.”
K.L. Cleeton said home care “is the reason I’m able to maintain my independence.
“Because I’m able to choose the people who care for me, the people who know me best in the world, my parents, I’m able to remain at home and receive the best possible care,” he said.
Before Durbin attended the town hall event, he spoke at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation about the American Rescue Plan, which will funnel $33.8 million to Springfield city government and $37.8 million to Sangamon County government.
Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said city officials haven’t decided yet how to spend Springfield’s ARP money, but sewer and broadband services probably will be among the funding priorities in the next few months.
Sangamon County administrator Brian McFadden said the county recently received its first disbursement, amounting to about half of the ARP total.
The County Board hasn’t decided yet how the money will be spent, McFadden said.
“We are waiting for the final guidelines to be published by the Treasury department,” he said, adding that those rules should be finalized in July.
“Given the current confusion regarding some of the funding, we feel that it is best to wait for final clarification,” McFadden said.
Contact Dean Olsen: email@example.com; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.