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Lawmakers, community members push for home care worker wage increase

Posted at 9:27 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 23:22:08-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Home care workers said they are in desperate need of increased wages. Those who depend on home care aides to live their daily lives said they are struggling to find workers because so many are leaving the field for jobs at fast food places or retail stores.

"It pisses me off. We should not be left out. We work just as hard as anybody else. Just because we're not flipping burgers? I mean I hate to say it, but we're wiping butts," Geneese White, a nurses aide, said.

She said she makes just more than $12 an hour.

"I'm a mother. I have bills. Rent has went up quite a bit. Not just quite a bit, a lot. I can't even put myself in a position where I could afford to buy a house. I would love to, but you can't buy anything with $170," White said.

She is one of many questioning if they should work at places like Walmart or McDonald's, where she can make more money.

"I want to go. I want to walk away every day. Sometimes [her client] can be a pain in the butt. She drives me crazy, but again, I love her. If I wasn't there for her, who would be there?" White said.

When aides walk away, people like Renee Christian and Todd Vaarwerk cannot go about their daily life.

"I'm struggling to not have accidents on myself, to not be at risk for infections. I'm having increased back pain because I'm in my chair too long. I'm not going to my therapies like I need to," Christian said.

"If I don't have someone to help me, I'm not able to do my job. I can't get to work because if I'm doing bathing and toileting and all this stuff I normally wouldn't do myself. It's really hard to do," Vaarwerk said.

Three Western New York politicians are pushing for the Fair Pay for Home Care Act. The bill looks to increase home care workers' pay.

"This is something that should be done immediately in the state legislature. We have the support. We want to get it over the finish line. As we negotiate this budget, this is going to be a top priority," Senator Tim Kennedy, District 63, said.

"It's not right. I will work as hard as I can with my colleagues in the senate and the assembly to fix this problem," Assemblymember Monica Wallace, District 143, said.

"We all do better when we all do better. That really applies to this situation, and we're not all doing better," Assemblymember Pat Burke, District 142, said.