A bill that would increase hourly wages for home care workers in New York won the backing on Tuesday from a set of powerful allies: The NAACP and the New York Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, & Asian Legislative Caucus of state lawmakers. 

The push for the bill comes as New York faces an acute shortage of home care workers, considered by advocates of the legislation to be the worst in the country of any state, and has been made all the more dire amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The home care industry is facing an extreme labor shortage. To solve this issue, we must pass Fair Pay for Home Care Workers," said Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, the chair of the caucus. "The labor our homecare workers perform is vital to the health and well-being of older New Yorkers who wish to age in place. As an aging nation, making early investments in the home care sector will allow the industry to recover past COVID-19 and provide foundational support for future generations."

New York's population of adults age 65 and older is set to increase by 25% over the next generation, making the need for home care workers even greater. It's estimated there will be 600,000 home care job openings by 2026, supporters of the legislation said. 

Home care workers are majority women and people of color. The bill would increase pay as well as seek to provide improved working conditions for many of the workers. 

"Home care workers have been on the frontlines throughout this pandemic," said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos. "Each and every day they are risking their lives to care for others in order to provide for themselves and their loved ones. It is unacceptable that our home care workers, who are overwhelmingly women and people of color, are being treated with such a high level of disrespect."

Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposed $216 billion budget includes provisions meant to expand health care worker ranks by 20% over the next five years after many in the industry left their jobs in the last two years amid the pandemic, stress and vaccination mandates.