Let’s Creatively Use Available Federal Funds to Fix This

Statement from New York Association for Independent Living (NYAIL) Executive Director Lindsay Miller:

Over the past year, more than 15,000 people tragically died in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities due to COVID-19 and problems inherent with these institutions in keeping residents safe. This year’s state budget provided an opportunity to address this crisis and ensure it does not happen again by investing in home and community-based services. Nobody should be stuck in a nursing home who does not want to be there. Unfortunately, the final state budget turns its back on people with disabilities and seniors by maintaining the status quo when it comes to inadequately funding the programs we need to live at home, not in a home. Most astounding is the state’s unwillingness to fund Fair Pay for Home Care amidst a growing home care crisis.

New York’s Independent Living movement, along with many others, advocate for Fair Pay for Home Care to increase wages for home care workers to 150% of a region’s minimum wage. Independent Living Centers help prevent people from going into nursing homes, as well as assisting them to leave if they express an interest in moving back home. However, this work is now extremely difficult as people who are ready to leave a nursing home with housing and other services in place are not able to do so because home care workers are not available. Wages in other sectors like fast-food restaurants have increased while wages for home care workers have remained stagnant despite the vital nature and difficulty of the work. These essential workers kept thousands of New Yorkers safe and independent throughout the pandemic, but the state budget failed to ensure they are paid a living wage.

The state neglected several other opportunities to invest in keeping people safe and in their own homes, including: The Access to Home program, to provide home access modifications to allow individual to stay in their own homes and out of deadly institutions; Independent Living Centers, which provide essential advocacy and supports to help keep people in their own homes; and the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which serves as a resource and advocate for individuals living in nursing homes.

Independent Living Centers are seeing more and more people unable to leave institutions solely because they cannot get home care due to the aide shortage.  We expect this crisis will only worsen this summer when fast food workers earn $2.50 an hour more than most home care workers. There is more than $1.6 billion in federal funds available for home and community-based services to be distributed pursuant to a plan developed by the NYS Health Department. The state must use these resources to finance the Fair Pay for Home Care initiative so that there is an adequate workforce to keep people in their homes and out of dangerous institutions.