Home health care aides on Long Island are urging state lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at setting pay for workers in the field above New York's minimum wage.
On Tuesday, workers with Reliance Home Senior Services at the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa held a news conference where they asked Gov. Kathy Hochul to back separate bills putting pay for home care aides at 150% more than minimum wage.
Advocates on Tuesday described the struggles home care workers face, usually working at minimum wage and commuting for hours on public transportation through New York City and Long Island before finally reaching patients in need.
The minimum wage for Long Island and New York City is $15 an hour. Across the rest of New York State, the minimum wage is $13.20 an hour.
Dana Arnone, owner of Reliance Home Senior Services, said more than half of home care workers rely on government assistance like SNAP benefits or Medicare.
"The state pays home care workers poverty wages …," Arnone said. "Home care workers who love their jobs are leaving in droves for better pay, right when we need them most."
The bills, one in the assembly, the other in the senate, and both with bipartisan co-sponsors, would be funded by Medicaid savings from decertification of nursing home beds, unspent capital project funds and grants to subsidize Medicaid payments.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors includes Assemb. Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach).
"I don’t think that people realize just how far reaching this home care crisis is — the days when home care really only affected people with disabilities is far in the past," Miller said in a statement. "The best possible care for them is in their home environment but as a result of sustained underfunding and cuts, many agencies are struggling to be able to provide that care … We must prioritize this and continue to prioritize home care support every year in the budget."
Home health care aides are among the lowest paid workers in the state, according to the bills, averaging annual salaries of $22,000.
"New York has a larger need for home care than ever before and is at the center of a national home care workforce crisis," the senate bill states. "Individuals are going without services or becoming institutionalized, because there are not enough home care workers."
Steve Narvaez, the lead organizer of SEUI 1199, the union representing 55,000 health care workers statewide, said workers continued doing their jobs during the pandemic but may have been forgotten and didn’t receive the hazard pay awarded to others caring for COVID-19 patients.