BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — State Budget Director Robert Mujica said up to 85% of the Governor's proposed health care spending is for increased wages, but not for home care workers.
"Home care wages are not. Home care wages were not put in as they were dealt with minimum wage. Hospital funding, nursing home funding, all of that is running through the global account," Mujica said.
Renee Christian, an advocate for increased pay for home heath care aides, said she had been hoping Governor Kathy Hochul would raise pay for home care workers in her 2022 budget.
"It sends us a message that we don't matter. That all of these other things matter before us," Christian said.
Christian requires home health care aides twice a day, seven days a week. Christian said on nights she does not have an aide, she can not sleep in her own bed. She said when she can't find someone to help her, she frequently has to go without using a toilet and showering.
"I haven't had a staff during the day in over a month. The one I have at night is only three days a week, so seven days a week I don't have staff during the day and three days a week I have overnight," Christian said.
The home health care worker shortage has left Christian without the care she needs.
"Like in this moment, I look put together. I look good on the screen. To those watching, I look cared for. But I have to pee, and I'm about to pee my pants," Christian said.
Christian said right now, her medicaid benefits pay home care workers $13.20 per hour.
"I just saw an ad on Indeed for Tim Hortons workers starting at $17 per hour," Christian said.
Christian said she is concerned about the chance that the pay may increase for nursing home workers may cause those who are left in the home care industry to leave.
"I think that if nursing home workers start to make more than home care workers, we're going to lose the people that we do have," Christian said, "I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in her decision. I'm disappointed in her inability to stand up for people in their homes, for people that want to live independently. I'm disappointed in the fact that she thinks we do not deserve freedom."
A representative from Governor Hochul's office told 7 News:
"Ensuring quality work conditions and quality care for our most vulnerable New Yorkers is critical, and we are committed to retaining and expanding this vital workforce. Governor Hochul has proposed a multi-billion dollar investment in health and human services workers, including $4 billion to support wages and bonuses. New York has also submitted a plan to the federal government to spend $2.2 billion in federal pandemic relief funding, including 14 targeted initiatives to strengthen the home care workforce. Governor Hochul will work with the legislature to enact a budget that addresses the needs of all New Yorkers, and more detail about the executive budget will be available upon its release later this month," Hazel Crampton-Hays, Press Secretary, said.
Crampton-Hays said those 14 targeted initiatives include the "Home Care Workforce Initiative," which enables home care agencies to implement evidence-based programs that help them to recruit, retain, train, and support their direct care workers and the "Workforce Transportation Incentive" which solves transportation-related barriers related to home care worker recruitment and/or retention.
Christian said those issues do not address the root of the home health care worker shortage: pay.
The Fair Pay for Home Care Act is a bill currently in committee in both the senate and assembly. This bill aims to increase home care worker's pay by requiring that medicaid reimbursement be 150% of minimum wage. The bill has received bipartisan support across the state.
However, Christian said she is concerned that because that was not factored into the 2022 budget, even if the bill passes both the senate and the assembly, Governor Hochul will veto it for a lack of funds.
Christian has a GoFundMe to help her with the out of pocket expenses she is facing to hire workers.