HARRISBURG, PA. (ErieNewsNow) - Just over two weeks ago, direct support professionals and intellectual disability advocates rallied at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to address a serious worker shortage. 

Today, direct care professionals and independent living advocates held a rally outside the Capitol with a similar message. 

The lack of funding and shortage of workers is a serious concern for those who provide and depend on direct care services. 

“We are not robots; we are not services. I am not a commodity. And all these people out here are not things, we are humans,” said Kelly Barrett, a Living Well Specialist at Voices for Independence in Erie. 

Both Barrett and Voices for Independence Executive Director, Shona Eakin, rely on the services they advocate for. 

“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have someone who helped me get dressed, who helped me sit in front of you so that I can give this speech,” said Eakin. 

Eakin says funding is needed to pay care professionals a livable wage. 

“The people who have the power to make the decisions need to hear what a profession this is and need to hear that many of you have made this your life’s work, and you deserve a livable, sustainable wage,” said Eakin 

According to Eakin, those who are currently seeking work are driven to other industries, where they are being offered a higher wage. 

“We can’t compete with Sheetz, we can’t compete with Starbucks, we can’t compete with Target,” said Eakin. “There’s something criminal about paying more to pour coffee than paying more to care for people that need basic needs met. We need a wage that represents the value of the work that you all do,” added Eakin. 

Advocates are seeking acknowledgment and support from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and both sides of General Assembly. 

“You’re doing a hell of a job. You’re taking care of people. You’re the most compassionate workers we have in Pennsylvania. We need you,” said State Representative Ryan Bizzarro, who serves as Chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee. 

Advocates say this is a bipartisan issue that can affect anybody. They’re calling for action from the Governor and DHS, House and Senate Republicans, as well as the entire General Assembly to make this a top priority. 

“Fund the system in a real way that will enable us to give a wage that is competitive,” said Eakin.