New York, NY – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this week told a rally of 1199SEIU homecare workers and consumers that the Better Care Better Jobs Act will bring them higher wages and the respect they deserve as “healthcare heroes.”
“Investing in home-and-community based services, as I intend to do in the Build Back Better proposal, is a rising tide that lifts all ships.” Schumer told the crowd at the rally at 1199SEIU headquarters in Manhattan, which featured gripping personal stories from homecare workers and the people they serve.
The Act would provide $400 billion over 10 years to expand homecare and community-based services, create more good jobs for homecare workers and allow more people to remain in their homes and get the services they need.
“We will fight for this with all our might. It will secure the right for seniors and those with disabilities to live at home and receive the health care they need. It will allow family members to participate in the workforce knowing they can find and afford high-quality homecare for their loved ones, Schumer added. “And it will finally pay homecare workers, so many of whom are women of color struggling with low wages, the salary they deserve as the healthcare heroes that they are.”
The Covid-19 pandemic worsened the existing crisis in care for the growing number of seniors and people living with disabilities. With 10,000 people across America turning sixty-five every day, homecare work is one of the fastest growing professions in the nation. It is also one of the lowest-paying — and one of the most diverse. Nationally, 87% of home health aides are women; more than half are women of color and about 30% are immigrants.
“Homecare workers are the unsung heroes – before Covid, during Covid and they’re still doing their jobs,” said Rona Shapiro, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU’s Homecare Division. “We are building a coalition in this state that will be too big for anyone to ignore.”
Homecare workers continued going into people’s homes at significant risk to themselves to help bathe, dress, feed and do housekeeping for those need such critical care. The Better Care Better Jobs Act will give more people access to homecare, recruit new workers to fill the growing need and pay people the wages they deserve.
“We went to work every day during the pandemic because our clients needed us,” said Lilieth Clacken, an 1199SEIU homecare aide for six years with Region Care and All Metro. She urged Congress to pass the Better Care Better Jobs Act to give her and her colleagues the respect and wages they deserve. “This work is more than a profession; it’s a calling. My client can’t do without me because I am essential to her life. (But) we want to be able to feed our families, pay our bills, and take care of the people who need us.”
Dana Arnone, a former homecare worker who now runs a homecare agency, Reliance Homecare Services, said: “We are facing a crisis in homecare. There is no one more essential than a worker who comes to your home to help you. Now we need the government to step up and help our homecare workers.”
Several Congress members who could not attend, sent statements of support to the workers:
“It is essential that we pass President Biden’s Better Care Better Jobs Act to ensure that homecare workers can provide quality care to seniors and people living with disabilities, while making sure they can feed and support their own families,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “There is a crisis in homecare and I will do everything in my power to get this through Congress. I will fight to the end.”
“Homecare aides are unsung heroes of the pandemic, risking their health and lives to work in the homes of seniors and people living with disabilities,” Congressman Hakeem Jefferies said. “The proposed $400 billion in funding through the Better Care Better Jobs Act would help bring fairer pay to essential workers and help improve health conditions for many Americans. I thank 1199SEIU for their support, and I am deeply appreciative of Majority Leader Schumer for his commitment to getting this vital piece of legislation passed.”
“The pandemic has underscored just how essential healthcare workers truly are, and that includes homecare workers who deserve a living wage,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “I’m proud to cosponsor the Better Care, Better Jobs Act to strengthen benefits for these critical workers and, in turn, help deliver better outcomes for older Americans and individuals with disabilities who rely on their care.”
“While the pandemic forced many of us to lock down and remain distanced, homecare workers were there to help meet the daily needs of those who utilize their services during this isolating time,” said Congressman Paul Tonko. “Despite their importance to our neighbors and loved ones, millions of home care workers are barely making a living wage and work without the adequate sick leave or benefits other essential workers enjoy. It is long past time for these front-line health care workers to get paid what they deserve.”