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Roberta Vogel, a retired counselor who worked at the College of Staten Island for 45 years, is visually impaired and relies on a home health-care worker to assist her with daily tasks.
“What would I do without her?” she said during a March 22 rally near City Hall. “I love her [and] she deserves fair pay. She is the one who makes it possible for me to have a life that has dignity.”
Advocates from the NY Caring Majority, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the Chinese American Planning Council held a “Dance & Rally” event at City Hall Park to pressure Governor Kathy Hochul to sign the Fair Pay for Home Care Act, which would increase pay for home health aides to 150 percent of the minimum wage, before the budget deadline.
In 2021, home health workers made $25,000 a year on average, according to a recent report by City Comptroller Brad Lander. Nursing assistants who work in home care settings earned an average annual salary of $30,000, and about 15 percent of all care workers (who also includes childcare workers, preschool teachers and personal care workers) earned at or below the federal poverty level, the report found.
The vast majority of industries within the home care sector paid a median salary within $2 of the city’s minimum wage.
The number of direct care jobs has boomed in the city over the past several years, with the number of home health aides growing from 142,096 in 2019 to 147,144 in 2021. The number of care workers working with seniors and people with disabilities grew 13.2 percent, making it one of the fastest growing occupations, the comptroller’s office found.
“We all know it’s needed, but then how on earth can we pay it so little that no one can afford to do it? Home care is one of the fastest growing jobs in New York, and yet there are a huge number of vacancies because they just don’t pay enough,” Lander said during the rally.
The increasing population of New Yorkers age 65 and older means that the shortage of home health care workers will only get worse. Boosting pay for home health care workers is key to ensuring that older New Yorkers will be able to get the care they need, the advocates said.
“Over 4.6 million New Yorkers will be over age 65 by 2035. We’re the fastest growing part of the city and state’s population,” said Bobbie Sackman, a campaign leader at NY Caring Majority, which advocates for seniors, people with disabilities and home-health aides. “Nearly 1 million New Yorkers will require home care. So we’re growing leaps and bounds and the home care shortage will only get worse.”
Sackman also pointed out that many care workers will likely be aging out of the industry: the average care worker is 48 years old, and home health aides in particular are an average of 51 years old, according to the comptroller’s office.
Home health workers have made salary gains: in October, they earned a $2 an hour raise, and are set to receive another $1 increase this year. The advocates are pushing to build on that progress with the Fair Pay legislation, which has bipartisan support, and held a similar event in Albany.
The comptroller noted that he released the report spotlighting care workers in honor of Women’s History Month – the vast majority of care workers, 89 percent, are women, and 71 percent are immigrants. City Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor, added that her mother worked as a home health care worker for 25 years.
“We want Governor Hochul to listen to the mostly immigrant women, like my mother, who have put their lives on hold for others,” De La Rosa said. “They deserve to make life-sustaining wages, where they don’t have to work 24 hours, 48 hours in a row in order to make a living.”
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