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A home caregiver, Shalynn Whear of Weirton, W.Va., cooks, cleans, does the dusting and much more for a client in Slovan.

“I act as a chauffeur, personal chef, a maid, all these things,” said Whear, who is a college student and employed by Voices for Independence, based in Erie. “And their wages are a lot higher than mine.”

Whear was one of two caregivers from the region to discuss the challenges she faces in an online press conference Thursday afternoon with Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Appearing under the auspices of the left-leaning advocacy group For Our Future Pennsylvania, Casey and Brown believe resources should be put toward home and community-based services in the budget reconciliation bill that is being hashed out Washington, D.C.

“I currently make less than $12 an hour,” Whear added. “I’m in college, so that’s not great.”

Whear was joined by a caregiver from Toledo, Ohio, and Chastity Fox, who lives in Monongahela. Fox explained she earns $12.25 per hour, with no time off or holiday pay.

“McDonald’s pays at the same hourly rate I’m making after five years in the field,” she said. “I don’t think that’s right. We can’t live off that and meet our basic needs.” Fox said that she hopes to eventually “get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mindset.”

In June, Casey and Brown introduced the Better Care and Better Jobs Act, which would expand access to home care services for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and increase the wages and benefits for home caregivers. They say it would create additional jobs in the caregiving workforce and allow those they care for to stay in their homes and be active in their communities.

“Their work is essential and even heroic in the midst of a pandemic,” Casey said. “I can’t even imagine the level of courage and commitment that work takes.”

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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