ALBANY (TNS) — A union-backed bill that would raise wages for home care workers amid a statewide shortage is gaining traction in the Legislature as supporters call on Gov. Hochul to embrace the effort.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, joined the push for the Fair Pay for Home Care Act this week as a majority of Democrats in the Senate signaled support.
“It is imperative in New York State that we look after our community’s elderly and most vulnerable members,” Peoples-Stokes said. “This legislation will help to address home care shortages and ensure that essential home care workers are paid fair wages.”
Thirty-two Democratic Senators are signed on as sponsors of the bill and in the Assembly, Peoples-Stokes’ support brings the number to 71. The bill also has garnered a handful of Republican backers, four in the Senate and seven in the Assembly.
Advocates as well as the politically powerful 1199 union, which represents hospital and health care workers, want to see Hochul include the measure in her soon-to-be-announced budget proposal.
The governor, in her State of the State address last week, laid out plans to bolster New York’s pandemic-fatigued health care workers with incentives and pay increases but did not directly pledge any wage hikes for home care workers.
Supporters say home aides are being overlooked amid a dangerous and growing dearth of workers.
The “Fair Pay” bill would raise pay for home aides to $22.50 an hour, up from minimum wage, which is $13.20 per hour in parts of the state and $15 in downstate counties and New York City.
“We need to enact fair pay for home care so home care workers can be adequately paid, so people can get the care they need without either having to go into a nursing home or forcing a member of the family to give up their career,” said Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D- Manhattan), the lead sponsor of the bill.
A report from Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, the lead Senate sponsor, revealed this week that 60% of open health care jobs in New York are in the home care sector and chalked up the shortage to low wages.
“Home care is about freedom, independence, and choice. It’s about dignity,” May said. “The Fair Pay for Home Care bill would attract more people to the workforce and allow people the ability to stay in their homes.”
Other reports cited by advocates show New York’s 65-plus population is slated to grow 25% in the next 20 years, causing the current workforce shortage to worsen exponentially.
A recent AARP study found 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long term as opposed to living in a nursing home.
“The vast majority of New Yorkers who need long-term care want to remain in their own homes, and home care is often less expensive than a nursing home,” said Bill Ferris, AARP New York State legislative representative, adding that the bill “would be right for the workers, right for care recipients and their family caregivers by alleviating worker shortages and ensuring care is available, and right for taxpayers by saving the long-term care system money.”