State lawmakers on Thursday vowed to address a home care worker shortage in New York amid growing concerns over worker pay.
The push comes as a coalition, the New York Caring Majority, is calling for the passage of a bill meant to boost pay for home care workers in New York.
At issue is an aging population, and older people seeking care options beyond turning to a nursing home. The state's population of people age 65 and older will grow by 25% in the next 19 years, and the 85-plus population is set to increase by 75%.
And home care demand is increasing as well: The state has more than 600,000 job openings in the field by 2026 and is expected to have more demand than any other job in the country.
Democratic lawmakers in the state Assembly and state Senate, including Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, acknowledged the problem on Thursday in a virtual news conference with advocates and pledged to address the pay concerns for workers.
“There are lots of ways that people can remain in communities if they get the support — so it is up to us as legislators to see that there is a need, find ways to encourage people to stay in their home, and make sure that we provide the resources that allow people to stay in their home. I know a lot of great home care workers who just need more money — you cannot live on that amount of money. They are doing great work as we’ve seen — but they are not getting a living wage. It is up to us to make sure that happens," Stewart-Cousins said. “Most home care workers are disproportionately women, disproportionately people of color, disproportionately immigrants. Your coalition and this push will help us get there. You have support in the Senate.”
The problem, too, has been made all the more complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic as more people choose to remain in their homes as they age, placing even more demand for home care workers.
“The devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a number of long-term, systemic issues including home care workers’ wages," said Sen. Shelley Mayer. "Their work is essential in promoting independence and safety, keeping people in their homes, and rebuilding a more resilient economy. I am committed to fighting to make sure they are compensated fairly for the vital services they provide to seniors and those with disabilities."