For the last 20 years, national experts have warned about the consequences of a shortage of nursing assistants and home aides as tens of millions of baby boomers hit their golden years. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered the challenges and vulnerability older adults and people with disabilities face, New York has a greater need for home care than ever before. According to a new study by the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State, approximately 74% of seniors and people with disabilities are unable to retain home care workers, and many workers leave this field due to low wages that persist throughout the industry because of the state’s reluctance to increase pay for aides.
Due to the severe shortage of in-home care workers, vulnerable people are forced to choose between going without services or becoming institutionalized. The Public Health Institute estimates that home care, including consumer-directed personal assistance, should add more new jobs than any other occupation in the state over the next ten years. However, despite this rapid growth potential, the consulting firm Mercer has estimated the state will face a shortage of at least 80,000 home care workers by 2025. Low wages are often cited as the primary reason for this shortage as home care aides are among the lowest-paid workers in the state, with two-thirds of care workers earning just $12.50 an hour. In comparison, the hourly rate for fast-food workers rose to $15.00 this July. Additionally, 57% of home care workers rely on public benefits to care for their own families.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that those employed in the health care industry are our most essential workers and they deserve to be respected and supported for the crucial, life-saving work they do. That is why I’m fighting to ensure our home care workers are paid a living wage by co-sponsoring a bill to establish a base wage for home care workers at 150% of the regional minimum wage (A.6329). It has been found that if wages were increased at this scale, and funded appropriately, the home care workforce shortage could be resolved in less than five years. Additionally, the bill could create almost 18,000 new jobs in local economies due to the increased spending capacity of the home care workers. The state would also see increased income, sales taxes collections and savings from public benefits totaling $7.6 billion, making it potentially one of the most successful economic development programs in the history of New York State.
Recently, the governor signed another bill to help fix the shortage of home care service workers into law. This new law requires the Department of Health to schedule when they will offer competency exams to qualified home care service workers residing outside New York to fill any shortage of in-home care aides in this state (Ch. 661 of 2021). Due to the deficit of in-home health care workers in New York, companies have been outsourcing workers from neighboring states. Making a schedule of when the department offers competency exams will make it easier for out-of-state workers to fill these vacant positions.
Our home health care workers work tirelessly to deliver necessary care to the people that need it most and they deserve a living wage for all that they do. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, contact my office at 315-452-1115 or by email at StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.