For the past 20 years, I’ve worked as a home healthcare worker. I’ve dedicated my life to serving those who need care so they can live in dignity with as much independence as possible.
Essential workers like me throughout our state show up to work every day to keep our economy running. We’ve always kept Illinois safe, clean, fed, and cared for — even long before the pandemic hit.
Now, more than a year after we showed up and made enormous sacrifices to do our jobs at great personal risk, our legislators have an opportunity to prove that workers like me are essential by investing in our communities.
Over the course of my career as a home care worker and member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois, I’ve cared for people from all walks of life. My clients are mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters, and sons.
I’m currently caring for a former truck driver who has Cerebral Palsy. Although he used to be self-sufficient, he’s very dependent on me now to get through the day. I help him accomplish basic daily tasks like eating, sitting up, taking his medicine, and getting dressed. I schedule my work day around his needs. This means I’m in and out of his house as needed for nearly nine hours a day.
But my work goes beyond ensuring my clients have their basic needs met. I hold people when they are sick, comfort them when they are lonely, and allow them to age with dignity and remain in their homes—something all of us would like for ourselves and our family members.
I love my job, but I can barely afford to do it. Although I have over 20 years of experience, I don’t make enough to be able to save up. A car repair or an unexpected medical emergency could bankrupt me. Recently my client was in the hospital for nine days, which means I wasn’t going to their home and earning a paycheck. And I don’t have paid sick leave, so that’s money out of my pocket if I ever need to miss work for my own health.
I am constantly having to rob Peter to pay Paul, calling utility companies to delay my bill so that I could afford to buy groceries.
For too long, our state has done the same thing with our state budget to disastrous ends. They’ve just taken money out of one critical program to make funding ends meet in another area, with no regard to the consequences. These services are called critical for a reason: working families depend on them.
But there is a solution if legislators are courageous enough to act. The Illinois legislature is just days away from voting on our state’s budget, and they have to choose between cutting critical services or closing tax loopholes that benefit large corporations and the ultra-wealthy.
Legislators can choose to support the proposals championed by the Raise Up Illinois Coalition that would close eight different tax loopholes. It is time to close the loopholes, to increase the revenue available to spend on the communities that need it most.
By closing loopholes the absolute richest Illinoisans and corporations in our state use to get out of paying their full tax bill, we can spend more money on housing, childcare, schools, and other essential services. We can properly strengthen and expand home care and other programs that take care of the vulnerable in our state. And strengthening the programs means taking care of workers like me so we can afford to stay in this important work without sacrificing our own financial security or health. It would be taxpayer money well spent.
This is about fairness. As we start to emerge from the largest pandemic of our lifetime that has claimed the lives of over 25,000 Illinoisans, and left countless others out of work, the need to invest in working people and the communities we live in has never been more apparent.
We need bold action to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and invest in the very workers that have shown up through it all. It’s time for our state legislators to close the loopholes and start to build an Illinois economy that works for everyone.
Vanda Talkington is a home health care worker from Wood River. She is a member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois.
via Alton Telegraph
May 27, 2021 at 04:47PM