By Alberto Gilman
Leaders and staff of Independent Living Inc, Hudson Valley elected officials and home care supporters joined together for the announcement of the launch of the Fair Pay For Homecare campaign to help end the home care worker shortage in New York State and to raise the home care worker wage to 150% of the minimum wage. The press conference on Wednesday, December 14 is one of several launch events across the state advocating for this particular bill.
Several highlights identified if the Fair Pay for Home Care act were to be passed in 2023 were the increases in revenue totaling $5.4 billion. This would lead to job creation, allow home care workers to move off social assistance and to work reasonable hours. Also reported, via the Home Health Care News outlet, was that COVID-19 patients fared better at home than in assisted living or nursing home facilities. According to a New York State’s Direct Care Workforce report, the state’s home care workforce was reported to be 91% female and 77% people of color. This bill projected the creation of over a quarter of a million new jobs for women. This includes 181,000 new jobs for women of color over the next decade.
Independent Living President and CEO Doug Hovey welcomed guests and additional supporters to the Newburgh office located at 5 Washington Terrace. In the Hudson Valley, specifically in Orange County according to Hovey, there are 11,000 to 12,000 people in Orange County who require home care assistance. Independent Living serves 400 of those people.
State Senator James Skoufis, State Senator Elect Rob Rolison, Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, Assemblymember Karl Brabenec, Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Newburgh Scott Manley and Ulster County Legislator Phil Erner were also present and recognized.
“This is an amazing day. We brought together homecare workers, homecare consumers, provider organizations, advocates and many of our local legislators,” said Hovey. “People with disabilities and older adults are not getting the care that they need in their homes, simply because the wages for homecare workers are too low, and people are choosing not to work in the industry anymore. We’re really in the middle of a major crisis for older adults and people with disabilities.”
During the previous year in 2021, Hovey highlighted the increase to pay by two dollars an hour to homecare workers. The pay increased from $13.20 per hour to $15.20 per hour. However, Hovey noted that the homecare industry is seeing a decline in the workforce as many are seeking higher paying jobs in industries such as fast food and retail. Hovey re-emphasized the need for better pay and for the push for the base wage to be set at 150%. The last time it was that percentage was 15 years ago, according to Hovey. In addition to the wage increases, Hovey also emphasized the importance of working with local healthcare providers and advocating for transportation accessibility. Hovey also expressed the need for additional funding for nursing home alternatives, as there are 630 nursing homes in New York State with about 130,000 people in nursing homes.
Independent Living Communications Officer Arlette Murrain followed and shared her thanks for the support seen at the press event. While thanking those who had come out to support, she also shared her own words and thoughts on the crisis, referencing a physical waitlist with names of Hudson Valley residents who are still waiting for assistance. “15% of people with a disability were born with disabilities, while 85% acquire their disability during their lifetime. So what does this say? It can happen to any one of us in any moment,” said Murrain.
A current home care worker and fellow advocate, Lolli Edinger hails from the Town of Olive and helps and aids several individuals. She joined in support of the bill. “The fair pay for home care campaign would eliminate New York’s worst in the nation and I want to emphasize that, worst in the nation, homecare worker shortage by paying 150% of the minimum wage right now that would be $22.50 an hour,” Edinger said. “Fair pay for home care for me would mean I get to see my family more, I would not be working 60, 70 hours a week and I would be able to see the people I care for actually have adequate staff so they can get out and live their lives.”
Several elected officials shared their own words in support of this particular bill heading into the new year. “We have to get this done on behalf of you all on behalf of our neighbors who cannot be in this room, mind you, and we have to stem this crisis. Let’s get this done. Let’s get it done next year,” said Skoufis.
“As members of the state legislature and for someone who hasn’t gotten there yet, but I think I can speak for my friends and colleagues in this room, we care and we have to help,” said Rolison.
“We know that capital projects are important. But we also know that people’s lives are important and quality of life is important,” Gunther said. “So we’re all going to call Kathy Hochul and all of her folks and say this year, make sure you appropriate the appropriate amount of money in the budget for people with disabilities that want to live a quality life.”