BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 33-year-old Renee Christian has been forced to sleep in her chair, go weeks without showers, and go to the bathroom on herself. Like many others, she depends on home care workers to live her day to day life. But due to the home care worker shortage, she's been forced to go days without help.
"This is not something I asked for. I was born this way, and I can't get people in the door," Christian said.
Home care workers are paid just above minimum wage. Many local leaders think low pay is the reason for the staffing shortage.
"I think that's unfair and unconscionable," Assemblymember Angelo Morinello, who represents District 145, said.
"It makes me feel as a society we're failing each other," Assemblymember Jonathan Rivera, who represents District 149, said.
Christian said many of her caretakers left the industry for jobs that pay more.
"[Home care] requires somebody who has a lot of compassion, who really cares about this work. But it's physically very demanding when you can make the same amount of money working at McDonald's or Starbucks, it's hard to keep and retain qualified and compassionate people," Assemblymember Monica Wallace, who represents District 143, said.
"We need to compensate them properly. We need to compensate them as professionals for what they do, and we need to make them proud of what they do," Assemblymember Morinello said.
That's exactly what the Fair Pay for Home Care Act aims to do.
"That will require that medicaid reimbursement be 150% of minimum wage, which I think will go a long way to attracting people," Assemblymember Wallace said.
The bill is currently in committee in both the State Assembly and Senate, with nearly half of both already sponsoring it. But assembly members said they are working to get it moved to the floor as soon as possible.
"I'm going to ask that particular chair to put a little priority on this because of the extreme need," Assemblymember Morinello said.
"I'm hopeful this gets addressed this spring," Assemblymember Rivera said.