Local home healthcare workers rally for hazard pay

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — For a special branch of healthcare workers, the front lines of the pandemic mean taking care of people at home. But group members say they feel left out of legislation helping other essential workers.

Local home healthcare workers united to ask the state for hazard pay as they continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. They say they are just important as other essential workers.

“I’ve been working throughout this entire pandemic. Just like the grocery store workers. Just like the meat packing plant. Just like the retail workers,” explained John Colley of SEIU Healthcare.

John Colley and his fellow SEIU Health union workers have one demand for the State’s Department of Human Services: Supplemental pandemic pay. They work in home health and say they’re consistently exposed to COVID-19.

“[Others are] getting hazard pay, they’re getting pandemic pay. A few dollars an hour. Yet we’re being ignored by the state and the federal government,” Colley added.

Since February, Colley estimates he has spent about $1,800 out of his pocket on personal protective equipment. He is hoping the extra money could help others like him deal with those increased expenses.

Spending $1800 over a three month period… that could be the difference between deciding, you know, get PPE or put food on the table for my kids. That’s not right,” Colley said.

67th District State Representative Maurice West (D) agrees.

“We need to do what we can to value our home care workers and help them during this pandemic, because this pandemic is not over–and they’re still doing lifesaving work for our most vulnerable population,” Rep. West said.

Representative West says he is planning on reaching out the the Department of Human Services to see what can be done to support home healthcare workers.

Eyewitness News reached out to the department, which negotiates contracts for personal care assistants like Colley, but they did not immediately respond.

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