Washington D.C. — On February 12th, Francis Adams, a home care worker for more than 20 years from Washington, Pa., testified at a hearing for legislation U.S. Senator Bob Casey is introducing — the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Infrastructure Improvement Act.
Sen. Casey’s bill would provide a one-time investment of federal funding to strengthen states’ ability to improve quality of life for millions of older adults, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and children and their families. The bill would strengthen the home care workforce through better wages and training, expand integrated employment for people with disabilities, and provide access to more transportation options.
“We can’t improve the long-term care that seniors and people with disabilities rely on unless we tackle the major obstacles that are holding working people back, including low wages, lack of benefits and basic worker protections, and inadequate training,” said Mr. Adams, who is 70 and works two jobs to support himself and his brother. “Many home care workers don’t have affordable healthcare and go years without seeing a doctor. More than half of us rely on public assistance. We’re unable to meet our basic needs.”
Home care work is this country’s future. Every day, more than 10,000 people turn 65 in America. In Pennsylvania alone, 70 percent of people turning 65 need some type of long-term care. But there is only one home care worker for every eight people who want to stay in their homes. The industry needs to attract one million more home care workers by 2028 to meet the skyrocketing demand. However, for a job that’s in such high demand, home care is one of the lowest-paid and most under-supported workforces in the country.
“It isn’t that we don’t have enough people to do this work that creates a workforce shortage,” said Adams. “It is that our country, as a whole, undervalues this work and so nobody wants to fill the positions. We have to fix this.”
“As long as we allow direct care workers to live in poverty, isolated and without proper training, we are failing our seniors, people with disabilities, and the home care workforce,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents 45,000 healthcare workers across Pennsylvania.
“As a union, we are committed to improving the health of our communities and the lives of caregivers,” Pres. Yarnell continued. “We appreciate Senator Casey introducing this legislation because we know a living wage, along with training and benefits is essential to maintaining and expanding a strong workforce to solve our care crisis.”