SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Dozens of workers with SEIU Healthcare Illinois took to the Capitol Thursday calling for better pay and improved training standards for Illinois Community Care Program (CCP) workers. 

The state reimburses companies for long-term care provided by home care aides.

About 100,000 seniors in the state rely on the program for help with their daily needs at home instead of ending up in a nursing home. But a workforce shortage is leaving some seniors without support.

Jenny Smith, a home care aide in Champaign, said workers aren’t getting paid enough causing problems keeping them in the field.

“Not only do you have a difficult time trying to keep employees because of the pay rate, they’re also not being trained properly,” Smith said, who’s been working in the home care industry for four years. “That’s why that door just keeps revolving and that nothing is ever consistent as far as the employment goes.”

Smith and other workers with SEIU Healthcare are calling on lawmakers to take action.

“We are not just maids or babysitters,” Smith said. “We actually become family members with our clients, and there’s a lot that we do for them.”

Workers want to see lawmakers pass two bills. One would raise the minimum wage of Community Care Program workers to $18 an hour. 

“This investment is not only for home care workers,” State Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) said during the rally. “This investment’s for our seniors, this investment’s for our families, this investment is for the entire state of Illinois.”

The other would change training standards including making sure workers get paid for training. 

Another home care aide, Terrie Powell, said she didn’t get paid while in training and that this bill would make a major difference.

“That was the first job I’ve ever done and they didn’t pay us for training,” Powell said. “It was a full 9-5 day, so that is something too, that would be a great incentive.”

State data shows Illinois needs another 9,000 home care workers this year and every year for 10 years. Smith said the need for more workers must be fulfilled so seniors can get the care they need while still living in their own homes.

“If they feel comfortable there, and that’s where we can keep them for as long as we can, that is our goal, to be able to do that, but we need to make sure that we have enough employees hired to do that,” Smith said.