New York’s 60-plus population is growing faster than all but four other states. According to the New York State Office of the Aging, by 2030, the over-60 population will grow to 25% of the state’s total population. 

At the same time the state’s population is aging, there is a staffing crisis in home care for people who want to age in their homes rather than move into nursing facilities.

“We have a crisis across the board in longterm care, whether it’s nursing care or home care or some of the other direct care professions, for people with disabilities,” said New York state Sen. Rachel May, chair of the Senate Committee on Aging. “But the home care crisis is the worst in the country. It has to do with how slow the reimbursement rates are from Medicaid.” 

According to May, things have gotten bad thanks to austerity budgets over the last decade. 

“Sixty percent of the openings for health care workers are in home care and that number should be rising as we have more people aging,” May explained.

A report released by Sens. May, Gustavo Rivera and Jessica Ramos, after a hearing on these issues last year, underscores some of the problems facing these workers, including extremely high staff turnover rates (94% in 2017 and 2018) and the need for these workers to access public assistance to make ends meet.

“While the state is pinching pennies to pay them, [the taxpayers] end up paying out of public assistance for keeping them above the poverty level,” May said.

To address this wage crisis, May and Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried have introduced the “Fair Pay for Home Care Act” (S5374A/A6329A), which would pay home health care workers 150% of the minimum wage.   

It’s an investment of $5 billion per year, which May acknowledges is significant. 

“But the return on that investment is about twice as much because [the home health aides] will come off of public assistance and people will not be going into nursing homes, which is very expensive in the Medicaid budget,” said May.   

Additionally, if the pay hike attracts enough home health aides, family members who have had to stay home to care for loved ones will be able to return to the workforce.

According to May, the bill has bipartisan support. 

“Everyone knows someone who is struggling with home care,” she told Capital Tonight.