The state Senate has endorsed Fair Pay for Homecare, a bill sponsored by Senator Rachel May (D-Onondaga, Madison, Oneida) to establish a living wage for home care workers, in its One-House Budget Resolution.
The Fair Pay act, S5374A, sets the minimum wage for homecare workers at 1.5 times the rate of the regional minimum wage. The proposal is backed by a broad coalition of home-care recipients, senior advocacy groups, labor unions and policy researchers.
Low pay is the main reason for New York’s worst-in-the-nation shortage of home care workers. The shortage, in turn, makes it increasingly difficult for many seniors and people with disabilities to remain safely in their homes. It is also forcing their family members to leave their jobs to care for a parent or other loved one in need. By boosting the pay rate, the Fair Pay act will help recruit and retain homecare workers, lift them out of poverty, keep seniors out of nursing homes and allow their families peace of mind and the flexibility to stay in the workforce themselves.
It is an investment with a large return, both in saving tax dollars and in improving health outcomes and quality of life.
In addition to Fair Pay, several other of the Senator’s priorities were included in the one house budget:
- Debt service funding for the three SUNY Hospitals (S.7684 May). This will save SUNY Upstate about $28 million per year and put the hospitals on even footing with other SUNY institutions.
- The creation of a Center of Excellence at SUNY OCC in Workforce Excellence in Health and Elder Care
- A Family Caregiver Tax Credit (S.7364 May). A top priority for AARP and other advocates for older New Yorkers, this would allow families to claim up to $7000 of annual expenses like modifications to homes or respite care, for a 50% tax credit.
- Stop Raiding RGGI (S.6268A May), which will require the Executive to use funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative specifically for clean energy investments.
- Raising funding for refugee resettlement from $3 million in 2021 to $10 million in this budget. Upstate cities traditionally welcome refugees from around the world, and this proposed funding will help to get them off to a good start in their new lives.
- New operating and capital funding for upstate arts organizations
The Senate one-house budget also includes key statewide priorities, such as:
- Record-setting investment in expanding access to affordable childcare
- Continuation of a three-year phase-in of full Foundation Aid for K-12 Public Schools
- $600 million for a SUNY “New Deal” to hire more faculty, close the TAP Gap, support community colleges, increase adjunct pay and eliminate student fees
- Investments in rectifying problems created by the pandemic, including over $1 billion for rental and landlords assistance and $300 million for unemployment insurance relief for small businesses
- A $6 billion bond act for environmental investments, including billions for clean energy and energy efficiency to combat the climate crisis
- Large increases in transportation funding for roads, bridges, electric vehicles including school buses, and public transportation
- Tax relief for middle class New Yorkers and those experiencing sticker-shock at the gas pump.
“The Senate one-house budget lays out our priorities for New York state, and I am very proud that we are standing up for people and institutions that have received short shrift for many years,” May said. “My top priority is Fair Pay for Home Care workers, which is both the right thing to do and an excellent investment of public funds.
“When we raise workers out of poverty and keep seniors and those with disabilities safe and healthy in their homes, it’s a win for families and taxpayers alike. This budget proposal also places a historic and sorely needed emphasis on the overall care economy when it comes to childcare, mental health care and family caregivers.
“Whether you are concerned about environmental protection, education at all levels, affordable housing, tax relief, emergency preparedness or pandemic recovery, this budget proposal offers significant solutions for New Yorkers.”