The bill would raise the minimum wage for home-care workers as high as $22.50 an hour for certain regions of the state.
Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, the bill’s sponsor, said Medicaid reimbursement rates for home-care workers have been stagnant for years, leaving some with pay as low as $13.50 an hour. May argued higher pay will help keep people in the field, and also recognize them for the challenges they’ve faced during the pandemic.
“Home-care workers were kind of invisible in that whole process, and didn’t get the acclaim and public support that other professions got,” May pointed out. “We really want to make sure they understand we believe they deserve a living wage for doing what they do.”
Opponents contended it is costly and does not address deeper problems in the state’s home-care industry. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal does not include funding for the legislation. The budget will be negotiated by state Assembly and Senate leaders with Hochul, and must be finalized by April 1.
Allison Nickerson, executive director of the older adult advocacy group LiveOn NY, said as people age, they should have care options, which can be challenging when home health aides are not fairly compensated.
“We also need alternatives to nursing home care, because not everybody needs to be there, and home care is part of that continuum,” Nickerson asserted. “It needs to be a system that’s not exploiting people. That is what is happening. I mean that’s what not paying people for the hours that they’ve worked – I mean, it all is an exploitative system.”
Nickerson added nursing homes are a critical part of community care but may not be right for every older adult and also cost the state more money than home care. One report said 74% of New Yorkers who needed home health aides last year were unable to retain one.
Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Now she reports for the Public News Service as part of the New York News Connection. Click here to support their mission! Send them an email at [email protected].