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Some lawmakers argue $3 raise for home care workers is not enough

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — The New York state budget gave a $3-an-hour raise to the state’s home care workers. Workers will get a $2 increase starting in October, then a $1 raise in 2023.

This will bump upstate home care workers’ wages from $13.20 to $16.20 an hour. But it falls short of what advocates and some legislators hoped for.

Assemblymember Anna Kelles (Rep. 125) is one of the lawmakers who pushed for the Fair Pay for Home Care Act. The legislation would have raised wages by 150 percent of minimum wage, or roughly $22.50 an hour.

Kelles said the state's increase is not nearly enough to address the severe shortage of home care workers.

“We have a shortage of about seventy to a hundred-thousand people who currently want home health care and cannot get it. And we know that people are leaving the home health care job, because they can't afford to continue to do it,” Kelles said.

Opponents of the Fair Pay for Home Care Act called the legislation costly and argued it did not address larger issues in the home care industry. Lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly included funding the Fair Pay for Home Care Act in their version of the budget.

“I was very disappointed in how it turned out because what was being asked for wasn't the moon. It was what was needed,” Kelles said.

Kelles is also concerned the raise will be just enough to disqualify workers for public benefits. Fifty-seven percent of home care workers rely on public assistance, according to a New York Senate Aging Committee hearing in July 2021.

“In some cases, this will actually make the situation worse, because they will be making just enough more to push them over the benefits cliff. So although they will be taking more home, they will be getting zero assistance from the state,” Kelles said.

She added that workers could end up having to choose between the extra money, and cutting down their hours to keep their benefits.

Kelles said she and other legislators will continue to advocate for legislation that would raise home care workers pay. She argued workers should be making at least 150 percent of minimum wage.