As the Hudson Valley grapples with the spread of COVID-19, I have heard from countless New Yorkers concerned with the health and safety of their parents and grandparents. Across our communities, families have struggled to find home care workers so their aging loved ones could remain safe and at home during the pandemic. Yet the truth is, our region and our state have faced a dangerous shortage of home care workers since long before COVID-19. The pandemic only brought to light and worsened this problem. That is why in Congress, I am fighting to invest in home care workers and combat our state’s growing home care shortage.
Across New York, the overall population is aging rapidly. In the Hudson Valley alone, the number of residents aged 80 and over is projected to grow 55% by 2040 — and seniors need care and support as they age. We know many people prefer to live and age in dignity in their own homes rather than live in nursing homes. Even before COVID-19, data revealed aging adults overwhelmingly prefer home care over institutional settings like nursing homes. That’s why demand for home care workers continues to grow. In fact, the sector will experience the largest job growth of any other occupation by 2026.
Yet just at the moment when we need home care workers more than ever, we are facing a “worst in the nation” home care shortage in the Hudson Valley and across New York. Every year, over 5,100 home care workers in the Hudson Valley leave the labor force or change occupations.
There are several factors contributing to the high, unmet demand for home care. Financially, there are few, if any, resources for families with home care needs. Our nation’s largest health program — Medicare — provides no coverage to those in need of long-term home care, meaning that unless you qualify for Medicaid or make enough to pay out-of-pocket, you cannot access this essential service. Aside from coverage, our system makes it nearly impossible to justify work in the home care sector. In the Hudson Valley, the median wage for home care workers is just $18,400 — and across the state, 43% of home care workers live in poverty. In a recent survey by the New York Caring Majority, 85% of Hudson Valley home care workers reported that they were satisfied with their work, yet nearly half are seeking to leave the occupation due to low wages. So it is no surprise that by 2026 New York will likely have more than 600,000 home care job openings. Right when our families need more home care, these workers are leaving the sector in droves.
There’s no question: we need more state and federal investment in care for our senior populations and those living with disabilities in order to end the home care shortage crisis. That’s why in Washington, I am working with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to deliver meaningful investments.
I was proud to vote to pass the American Rescue Plan, which included $12.6 billion in dedicated emergency funding for State Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). I also support President Biden’s call to invest $400 billion to expand access HCBS for seniors and people with disabilities and strengthen the direct care workforce. This historic federal investment would help our vulnerable family members and neighbors, and make sure the essential frontline workers performing these difficult jobs get the pay and benefits they have earned
We must evolve our home care infrastructure to meet the needs of Hudson Valley families today and tomorrow. Investing in a home care workforce will create jobs and ensure our seniors can live and age safely and with dignity, right in their homes.
Congressman Antonio Delgado is serving his second term representing upstate New York’s 19th Congressional District. During his time in office, Representative Delgado has held 63 town halls and passed 12 bills into law under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Most recently, he authored legislation that provided COVID-19 economic recovery funding to every unit of local government nationwide, irrespective of its population size. He is one of Congress’s most bipartisan Members, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Lugar Center. The Congressman serves on the House Committees on Small Business, Agriculture, and Transportation and Infrastructure.