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Home-health aides, advocate groups and elected officials last week kicked off a campaign demanding raises for home-care workers, who are among the lowest paid workers in the state.
The state is facing a significant shortage of home-health aides. The gap is expected to grow to 83,000 by 2025, according to consulting group Mercer. The shortages have largely been attributed to low wages. The City University of New York found that in 2020, home-health workers in New York City earned an average of $15.93 an hour.
The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute reported that, adjusted for inflation, home-health aides in the state earned an average hourly wage of $14.57 and nearly half lived in or near poverty.
The shrinking workforce comes at a time when home-health services are needed more than ever. By 2040, the state’s elderly population — those 65 and older — is expected to grow 25 percent, compared with a projected 3 percent growth rate for New York’s overall population.
Finding a home-care worker is already tough: about three-quarters of senior and disabled New Yorkers were unable to retain a home health aide last year, a report by the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State found.
Legislators have taken steps to increase pay for home-health workers: in October, the aides earned a $2 an hour raise, and are expected to receive another $1 increase next year.
But much more is needed, the workers and elected officials say. A coalition of advocates launched the Fair Pay for Home Care Campaign Dec. 13 at the Encore Community Services Senior Center in midtown in support of a bill that would raise pay for home health aides to 150 percent of the local minimum wage.
“We need much more than $3 so we can lift people out of poverty, [so] as they’re helping other people’s families, they can pay to help their family,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said during the event.
Home-health providers have had trouble filling jobs in part because while wages have increased in competing sectors such as the retail and food industries, pay has stagnated in the home-health industry, Mercer found.
“Home care workers love their jobs … but they’re leaving in droves. They can make more money at Target. They can make more money sometimes at McDonald’s,” said Bobbie Sackman, a campaign leader at NY Caring Majority, which advocates for seniors, people with disabilities and home-health aides. As part of the campaign, the coalition held similar events across the state, including in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.
Would allow seniors 'to age in dignity'
Several activists who spoke at the midtown event pointed out that studies show better patient outcomes for seniors who recover at home instead of in a hospital. Elected officials also noted that the home-health care sector should be a burgeoning industry because of the growing number of aging New Yorkers. Coalition members unfurled a list measuring 70-feet of New Yorkers waiting for aides.
“This is about so much more than just money. This is a fight about justice,” Assembly Member Amanda Septimo said. “This is a fight about making sure that as our neighbors, as our family members, as our community members grow old they are able to do so in dignity, with the care and love and respect they need every day.”
“The reality is we need to professionalize the work of home care workers and pay them professional wages,” added Assembly Member Karines Reyes, who is also a registered nurse.
If passed, the Fair Pay for Home Care Act would help a workforce that is made up of 78 percent people of color and 90 percent female employees.
Williams noted that “it shouldn’t be lost on anybody that most of these jobs are primarily women; they’re primarily black and brown women. There’s a lot of immigrant families and those are the communities that need the most help and somehow are always getting the least.”
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