Almost 820,000 Americans are on wait lists; some wait years for home care
Washington, D.C. - On Wednesday, March 23, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) held a hearing entitled, “An Economy That Cares: The Importance of Home-Based Services,” which examined how a major investment in home-based services would provide financial relief for American families and enable millions of family caregivers to get back to work. Chairman Casey highlighted his Better Care Better Jobs Act, which would expand access to services for seniors and people with disabilities including support with eating, bathing and moving around the house and neighborhood. Chairman Casey’s Better Care Better Jobs Act would also strengthen the caregiving workforce that provides such vital services, raising wages and expanding access to benefits. As a result of the investments in the Better Care Better Jobs Act, family caregivers, many of whom left their jobs to care for a loved one, will be able to return to work.
“For too long, American families have struggled to find and afford reliable high-quality care that enables their loved ones to live independently. Some people are forced to forgo their careers and stay home to care for a family member, and many caregivers struggle to make living wages,” said Chairman Casey. “An investment in home-based care is urgently needed. It will help people get back to work. It will give families peace of mind because they know that their loved ones are cared for. It will also give home care workers, the majority of whom are women from communities of color, a much-needed and long overdue raise. My Better Care Better Jobs Act would make this investment and I will fight for its passage in Congress.”
Chairman Casey’s Better Care Better Jobs Act would provide states with increased Medicaid funding to give them the ability to reduce waiting lists for services, make it possible for family caregivers to return to work, create new home care jobs and raise wages for care workers. In Pennsylvania, the pre-pandemic median wage for a home care worker was just $11.99 per hour, and many have few or no benefits.
Chairman Casey invited Brandon Kingsmore to the hearing with his caregiver, Lynn Weidner. Brandon testified, “With the way things are now, people like me wake up each morning, not knowing if a home care worker will be there that day. If our home care worker is sick or needs to take time off, which is likely unpaid because most don’t have paid sick time or paid leave, there’s no guarantee that another caregiver will be available to cover their shift. If someone is available, they’re often not prepared or trained in advance to provide the specialized care each individual consumer needs. Oftentimes, they’re working one or two other jobs because the pay for care jobs is so poor, so they only have an hour or two to provide care for someone who needs help 24/7…. Without a home care worker, I don’t have a life. I can’t go anywhere or do anything. I have a life. I have a voice. I have feelings. I have goals and ambitions.”
He continued, “Our current long term care system does not have the funding and resources necessary for recruiting, training and sustaining a home care workforce. The system is crumbling — especially after COVID-19. And that’s why we need action now. The needs of people with disabilities, seniors, working families, and children cannot be ignored any longer. If this legislation dies, caregivers will suffer because they cannot afford food, shelter, or healthcare, and clients will perish because no one will be there to keep them alive. Senators, please invest in care workers like Lynn by granting HCBS [home and community-based services] the funding it needs to make home care jobs good union jobs with pay and benefits that reflect the true value and impact of their essential work. Senators, please invest in care consumers like me by investing in HCBS, providing funding so we can get the care we deserve from the compassionate, well-trained, dedicated home care workers we depend on to live.”
Read more about the Better Care Better Jobs Act here.