It’s been said that a government’s budget makes a statement about its values. In that context, consider the following:
There are 20 million New Yorkers. More than 3 million are over 65, and 1,200 folks join that club every week. And a million and a half New Yorkers under 65 are people with disabilities. Add to this the millions more who are close family members, and you get the picture. That is literally most of us in the state.
Now consider the challenge of securing care in the home for large cohorts of our aging or disabled loved ones. If you’re well-off and/or have a generous long-term care policy, you’re among the fortunate few who can afford to privately pay $25 to $30 an hour for home health aides. If not, the situation is increasingly grim.
New York is the epicenter of a national home care crisis. There simply aren’t enough home care workers. The reason is largely due to poverty wages for these workers, funded via state-run Medicaid. This workforce of 200,000-plus is primarily women of color, many of whom are immigrants. They earn about $13 an hour, and average just $18,000 in annual pay. By contrast, the state mandates that fast food workers must earn at least $15 an hour.
You heard right. Somebody can make more flipping burgers than caring for your loved one. Is it any wonder there’s a growing shortage of home care workers? One out of four people seeking such care can’t find it. And even for those who do, three-quarters of them have trouble retaining the care they need, because these workers are dropping out of the field in quest of a living wage.
And yet, there is a solution: The Fair Pay for Home Care Act. Bipartisan majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly support the bill. Dozens of major players endorse it as well, including the AARP and healthcare union 1199SEIU. It would raise pay to 150 percent of regional minimum wages, or roughly $22 an hour. Over time, this investment in better wages would not only retain and attract home care workers, but actually boost the economy. People who earn more get off public assistance, pay more in taxes, and spend more in their communities. Those who get care at home can stay out of institutions such as nursing homes that too often are depressing and unsafe, and cost taxpayers a fortune. Moreover, people with disabilities who have home care can, and do, work and support themselves.
Unfortunately, Governor Kathy Hochul has left Fair Pay for Home Care out of her executive budget. That’s why it’s up to the Legislature, and we citizens, to finally get Fair Pay across the finish line.
Your voice is needed. There is still time for Governor Hochul to get Fair Pay for Home Care in the final budget, due by April 1. Dozens of state legislators—including top leaders—are working to put Fair Pay for Home Care in the Senate and Assembly budgets, and pressuring the governor to do the same.
But we, the citizens, must also act. Please call the governor and your state legislators today, and tell them to include Fair Pay for Home Care in the final budget. To contact them, use this handy “click to call” tool at nycaringmajority.org/callnow.
It’s time to put people first, and stem the home care crisis in New York.
- Momentum Is Building to Solve the Home Care Crisis
- New York’s Nursing Home Crisis and the Future of Home Care
The River is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the newsroom.