Campaign calls for higher wages for home helpers
Directors of the Bureaus for Aging from several counties in upstate New York have come together to advocate for a pay rise for home care workers – a move they say will help keep more seniors in and out of nursing homes.
âWho will help us as we get older? Pay a living wage for home care.
Lawyers joined the office of directors of aging for several counties in upstate New York on Wednesday in Schoharie. The event kicked off the Fair Pay for Home Care campaign.
Becky Preve, executive director of the Aging Association of NY State, cited statistics from a CUNY Graduate Center study of the state’s home help workforce.
âFifty-seven percent of New York State’s home care workers are on public assistance and 49 percent live in or near poverty. We really need to increase those wages now, âsaid Preve.
And demand is expected to increase, with the state’s 65-and-over population expected to increase by 25% over the next two decades.
The campaign supports state-wide legislation that would raise the wages of workers in an industry that advocates say faces the worst job shortage in the country.
Under a formula included in the Fair Pay for Home Care Act, the upstate minimum wage for home care workers would drop from $ 12.50 to $ 22.50.
David Jordan, director of the Montgomery County Office for Aging, said that when he took office nine years ago, there was a perceived lack of funding to support home care services. Today, he says, the problem is not the funding, but the shrinking workforce.
âWe contract with five different home care agencies, large and small, and many of the referrals we make to these agencies cannot be met because these agencies do not have enough workers to meet the demand for services, âJordan said.
New York counties are struggling with waiting lists of people in need. Some county offices for aging, such as in Columbia County, are starting to hire their own home care workers.
Kevin McDonald is director of the Columbia County Office for Aging.
âWe have hired our own home helpers at higher wages than people in our area receive. We provided them with transport vehicles to go from house to house. We pay them for their travel time. And it worked. In three months our waiting list was gone, âsaid McDonald.
Schoharie County recently brought in its own home help and also contracted with a cleaning company, but the county office for director of aging Nancy Dingee says that is still not enough.
âWe try to do everything we can to provide services to the elderly, but we always have people on our waiting lists. And I think it’s a theme for everyone, but I think for rural counties it’s even more difficult, âDingee said.
Preve said heads of state must recognize the contributions of home health workers – who often travel on their own without reimbursement – by passing the Fair Pay for Home Care Act. The campaign is also calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to include the bill in her next state budget proposal.
âDepending on what you pay, something really indicates how you like it, and that comes from being a completely undervalued industry until you talk to someone who has had a home helper in their life. , personally or with a family member, then that conversation turns into, I heard, âThis home help was my angel,â Preve said.