Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Brian Higgins (Western District of New York)
Western New York home care workers and families hosted a roundtable discussion with Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) to share the challenges facing those caring for seniors and people with disabilities. Together they are pushing for robust federal investments in America’s care economy.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030 the senior population will outnumber the youth population for the first time in history, driven by the baby boomer generation. A recent report by AARP estimated 53 million Americans, over 1 in 5 people, are caregivers to family members, but they can’t do it alone.
The U.S. will need to fill an estimated 4.7 million home care jobs, including over one million new jobs, by 2028. The median national wage for home health workers is around $12 an hour and even with a slightly higher hourly rate, New York home health workers earn on average, just $29,000 annually.
“With over 3+ years in health care, I have always had to work two jobs to survive,” says Linda Wilson, a home care worker. “Even after I suffered a stroke, I am back at it working two jobs. It’s time for a real investment in home care services, an investment that will change lives. I’m here today to ensure Better Care, Better Jobs Act gets fully funded for our WNY caregivers,” says Wilson.
An investment in home and community-based care would help meet the ballooning demand for care and establish a pipeline of home care workers into the next generation by transforming care jobs into good, living-wage, union jobs with training opportunities and real career pathways.
To address the need Congressman Higgins is cosponsoring the Better Care Better Jobs Act, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell in the House of Representatives, and pushing for the bill to be included in the reconciliation package to ensure President Biden’s American Jobs Plan vision is carried forward. The legislation includes a $400 billion investment in home and community-based services (HCBS) that enable the elderly and those with disabilities to live independently, be close to family and stay in their neighborhoods while receiving care in their homes.
Kathy Febraio, President and CEO of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers (HCP), which represents the spectrum of home care providers across the state joins in the call for federal investment in home care like that found in the Better Care Better Jobs Act. Febraio said, “HCP has long been calling on policymakers at the state and federal levels to urgently invest in home care. COVID-19 has only underscored the need to do so. Home care workers and the agencies that employ them have been undervalued and under resourced for decades. HCP is proud to support Rep. Higgins in his leadership on this effort. We call on the entire New York State Congressional Delegation to sign-on as cosponsors. Moreover, we urge the swift passage of investment in home care to ensure that the home care industry has the resources necessary to care for patients at home.”
“Much like the need to build bridge infrastructure to support transportation, substantial investments in care infrastructure are necessary to build the bridge to good-paying jobs and a better quality of life for families,” said Congressman Higgins, who also supported a $12.7 billion investment in home and community-based services through the American Rescue Plan, which delivered over $1.26 billion to New York.
“For millions of Americans home health care workers are the lifeline that keeps their families working, healthy and together. We need to act now to ensure as a nation we don’t shortchange the growing need to take care of our aging population.”
Western New York resident Robert Weintraub said, “For the past 13 years our family has struggled filling the care needs for my wife. It has really changed our family’s life. We are blessed with our current caregiver Shawn who has become like a member of our family but finding someone like her was difficult. Caregivers simply need more support. We are appreciative that Congressman Higgins is here today to listen to us. For so long we have lived like we are on a deserted island with no one to really understand our family. At this time, it is critical that the Better Care, Better Jobs Act is passed for families like ours and our caregivers.”
“Our 1199 members who work in community-based health services are the invisible backbone of our healthcare system,” says Grace Bogdanove, 1199SEIU Vice-President. “They provide the opportunity for an individual to be cared for in their home with the quality and dignity of life we all would choose, while they struggle to provide for their families. As our communities age, this is the fastest growing job title in Western New York. Investment in this care community is absolutely essential at this time,” says Bogdanove.
A large majority of Americans and hundreds of businesses support the need for major investments in the nation’s caregiving infrastructure. Beyond home care investments, the Build Back Better Plan care economy initiatives are expected to include:
- Creating the first ever federal paid family and medical leave benefit
- Extending hearing, vision and dental coverage to seniors through Medicare
- Reducing the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices
- Providing free, quality universal Pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-old children
- Supporting workforce development and apprenticeship opportunities through partnerships between unions, colleges and employers
- Authorizing the continued expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which was set into place in the American Rescue Plan.
The House Committee on Ways and Means, on which Congressman Higgins serves, may begin a series of hearings on the reconciliation bill for the Build Back Better Plan as early as this week.