Jan Schakowsky, Congresswoman

Jan Schakowsky is a Congresswoman representing the 9th Congressional District of Illinois and has for decades been a leading voice for issues in long-term care. Click the black squares below to hear and read about the Congresswoman’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The expanded interview (edited for clarity) is available at the bottom of the page.

This was before I was a senior myself, [I] worked with older adults, lots of union retirees at the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens so it was just something I really, first of all, I learned so much from these seniors at the time about being brave, being bold, of not being afraid to speak truth to power. As an organizer it was a great experience to work with older Americans for many many years.

You know the challenges are enormous but I think the interest and the ability to organize around these issues are great. So, we have to get to work.

Personal protective gear was not available, we were connecting with municipalities who were finding real difficulty in making sure that the nursing homes in their jurisdictions were prepared – what about testing? You know, it took a long time for the processes to catch up with what was going on in long -term care facilities.

She [sociologist Jessica Calarco] said, “Many countries have a social safety net. The United States has women.” We’re talking about paying—the workers in long-term care are mostly women. They are mostly women of color. They are actually many older women. And of course the caregivers, as part of families, are mostly women. We’ve seen those women have to leave the workplace to take the caregiving roles.

I’m concerned that when it comes to nursing homes, let me say first that private equity is now getting involved in nursing home ownership and I’m concerned that we maintain, number one, care, that we have adequate number of frontline workers, that they have good training and that care comes first and not just profits.

I will say that the pandemic lifted up these needs. It really pointed out to us a pathway of where we need to go and now it is really gonna be up to us to make sure that we work with all the stakeholders all of the stakeholders. And I’m talking about families, about advocacy groups, about the medical community, about unions and workers to put this together.

Click below for the expanded interview (14:22).