October 01, 2021

For Build Back Better Agenda, Gillibrand Calls For Historic Investment In Long-Term Care And Caregiver Economy In Buffalo

Between 2012 And 2016, Employment In Home Health Care In New York State Grew By More Than 56,000 Jobs; In 2017, 2.5 Million Family Caregivers in New York State Provided Approximately 2.1 Billion Hours Of Unpaid Care, Worth An Estimated $31 Billion; Home Care Workers Nationwide Earn a Median Wage Of $12 Per Hour and Roughly 18% Live In Poverty

As Congress crafts the historic Build Back Better Agenda, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at the 1199SEIU office in Buffalo to call for historic investments in long-term care and the caregiver economy, building on the $12.7 billion short-term Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) funding that passed as part of the American Rescue Plan. Gillibrand championed and helped secure HCBS provisions in the American Rescue Plan and is now pushing to pass the bicameral Better Care Better Jobs Act to enhance Medicaid funding for HCBS and strengthen the HCBS workforce.

“Caregivers and HCBS personnel are essential workers and we must treat them as such - this means paying workers a living wage and securing benefits commensurate with their work and sacrifice. Far too many of these essential workers, a majority of whom are women and people of color, are living in poverty,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Today, I’m pushing for a $400 billion investment in Medicaid HCBS and much-needed financial relief for caregivers and their families through the bicameral Better Care Better Jobs Act. This bill would also enable seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes and lead independent lives while receiving dignified care. Investing in care infrastructure means investing in the future of the middle class and caring for the people who care for our communities.”

"For more than 30 years I have worked in the home care field. We are essential. We absolutely need higher pay, benefits, and respect to keep good caregivers in the field. It's time that you invest in US,” said Johanna Luper, a Home Health Aid in Buffalo.

"Support for community-based services is a critical part of the infrastructure for independence and full integration of persons with disabilities in our community.  It is critical that this bill support the people who provide these essential services with a living and competitive wage,” said Todd G Vaarwerk, Chief Policy Officer of Western New York Independent Living, Inc.

"The WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions thank Senator Gillibrand for her support of the Better Care Better Jobs Act. This proposal will not only expand access to good-quality care but will lead to better pay and benefits for workers, enhancing the quality of life for many families. It will help to create real middle-class jobs in Western New York,” said Peter De Jesus, Jr., WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO President

“Homecare workers are the forgotten heroes of the pandemic. They often went into homes to provide care and didn’t know what situation they were walking into. They went to work without any PPEs, or other protection from the pandemic. These workers deserve a living wage and a career ladder to make their jobs better. That is why we thank Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her support for the Better Jobs, Better Care Act. We need to ensure the funding for these workers to be able to serve their consumers with the dignity that they deserve,” said Mark Spadafore, 1199SEIU Political Director, Upstate Division

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the urgent need to ensure all Americans have the option to receive quality, long-term care in the setting that best meets their needs and preferences. Over 3.5 million older adults and people with disabilities receive home or community-based care through Medicaid, but demand has greatly outpaced supply, with more than 820,000 Americans still on the waitlist for care. The pandemic has also made it difficult for older adults and people with disabilities to receive home health services and has placed a heavy burden on Medicaid home health agencies (HHAs) and HCBS providers that struggled to adapt to telehealth services and acquire adequate PPE for in-person visits. HCBS also enable seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes, stay active in their communities, and lead independent lives. Yet, currently, coverage, eligibility, and benefit standards vary by state, which leads to large gaps in coverage and caps on the number of individuals who can receive these critical services.

The Better Care Better Jobs Act would facilitate statewide planning to develop HCBS infrastructure improvement plans and enhance Medicaid funding for HCBS by providing states a permanent increase in federal Medicaid match if they expand access to HCBS and strengthen the HCBS workforce. Additionally, this bicameral legislation would incentivize workforce growth. Providing better pay and benefits, education and training, and stronger career advancement opportunities to promote retention are key investments needed to meet the moment for caregivers and HCBS alike.  

Senator Gillibrand championed and helped secure HCBS provisions in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), including:

  • Nearly $12.7 billion towards home and community-based services;
  • $145 million in funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP);
  • $500 million towards strike teams to support staffing shortages in nursing homes;
  • $200 million towards technical assistance in nursing homes on infection control;

This legislation is endorsed by SEIU International, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Healthcare Workers Rising, WNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, National Center for Independent Living, The Arc, National Council on Aging, Justice in Aging, and Little Lobbyists.

For more information on the Better Care Better Jobs Act, click here.