NY Home Care Agencies Face Worsening Labor Shortage – Jamestown Post Journal

ALBANY — Low wages for home care workers are fueling a growing shortage of staffers for the agencies that coordinate services for frail persons who are well enough to stay in their own residences, according to industry advocates.

The situation has been aggravated by the July 1 increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour.

That is $2.50 more per hour than what most home care workers earn from the agencies that are unable to compete with the higher-paying sectors due to low reimbursement rates from the state, said Bryan O’Malley, executive director of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State.

“We’ve been at a crisis level for staffing in home care for almost a decade now,” O’Malley said in an interview. “I’m hoping we can get a real resolution of the issue now.”

The worker shortage has led to hundreds of people who qualify for home care not getting the services when they are needed, O’Malley pointed out.


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Legislation known as the Fair Pay for Home Care bill passed the state Senate this year, though it did not get approved by the Assembly and thus did not end up in the state spending plan passed in April.

The measure is designed to alleviate the staffing shortages by setting the pay levels for aides at 150% of the regional minimum wage. In upstate New York now, the minimum wage is $12.50 per hour for employees not working at fast food restaurants.

At a state legislative hearing this week, Al Cardillo, president of the Home Care Association of New York State, told lawmakers the challenges facing the sector have been worsened by “state and federal cuts to reimbursement, incompatible reforms and mandates and the all-too frequent omission or marginalization of home care and hospice in government programming.”

He cited federal labor data in stating that the employment needs of the in-home care industry exceed that of nearly all other occupations.

A survey of service providers during the pandemic last year found the staffing challenges became more acute, interfering with the ability of hospitals to discharge patients who could be cared for in their homes if services could be lined up, he said.

Cardillo suggested a portion of federal funds flowing to New York be channeled to service providers to help offset losses suffered during the pandemic as well as to offset costs of purchasing personal protection equipment and COVID test kits.

“We have a major, perhaps historic opportunity, along with a professional and moral obligation, before us to address this need truly and substantively,” Cardillo said.

Supporters of the home care legislation say it would create an estimated 200,000 jobs in the field over the next decade, while generating as much as $5.4 billion for the state economy through new tax revenue.

Niagara County is among areas affected by the labor shortage, said Rebecca Preve, director of the Association on Aging in New York, which advocates for county Office for the Aging agencies throughout the state.

Preve, the former director of the Franklin County Office of the Aging, said it is common for home care aides to be lured away for more financially rewarding jobs in the fast-food industry.

“People would say, ‘I can have an eight-hour shift, I don’t have to drive anywhere, I can use other forms of transportation and I can make more money,’” at the restaurant job, she said. “These are people who were very dedicated and found the work rewarding but they couldn’t afford to maintain a home and a vehicle based on the salary they were getting.”

The recent labor shortage affecting many industries across the state has made it even more difficult for the direct care agencies to compete for employees, she said.

Preve noted in her testimony before lawmakers that New York’s population of people who have advanced past age 60 is expected to swell to 5.6 million in 2040.

The typical customers receiving core services are low-income women in their early 80s who live alone and have four or more chronic conditions, according to Preve.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhinews.com.

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