Masked man holding "FairPay4HomeCare Sign

A man demonstrating in New York holds a “FairPay4HomeCare” sign. Credit: Erik McGregor/Contributor

More than a dozen New York legislators on Tuesday demanded that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) include higher wages for home care workers in the annual budget proposal she will release in the coming days.

“It is the shame of this state that we treat the [home care] industry as low wage work, as minimum wage work,” state Sen. Diane Savino (D) said during a virtual press conference.

During her first state-of-the-state address last week, Hochul called on the state to invest $10 billion dollars in New York’s healthcare industry. The money would be used to expand educational opportunities in healthcare and provide $3,000 in retention bonuses for direct care workers. But, the governor said nothing about supporting the Fair Pay for Home Care Act legislation, which would boost wages for home care workers by establishing a base of 150% of New York’s minimum wage.

The bill’s co-sponsor, New York state Sen. Rachel May (D), said Tuesday tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been approved for home care through the state’s Medicaid program or their private insurance, but can’t find caregivers due to a shortage of workers.

“That means there are seniors out there who are going without basic services, like hot meals or bathing or helping them get up at night to go to the bathroom,” May said.

New York is in the midst of a caregiver crisis, exacerbated by the state’s COVID-19 mandate for all healthcare workers. Over the weekend, the New York State Association of Health Care Providers sent a letter to Hochul urging her to provide emergency financial relief to home-and-community-based services struggling with staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy-eight-year-old Sally Johnson, who requires a caregiver in her home, said Tuesday the low wages the state pays home care providers is causing continuous turnover in her care.

“It is horrific to keep people on the job,” Johnson said during the press conference. ‘I sometimes feel like I’m living on the edge. It scares me because I want to stay in my home.”

Proponents of the Fair Pay for Home Care Act said it would create more than a quarter million new jobs in the state and would provide higher wages for an estimated 350,000 caregivers,