New York Caring Majority Response to Governor Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State Address

Media Contact: 
Rachel McCullough
rachel@jfrej.org
917-596-7339

With the impending threat of cuts to life-saving programs for seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income people at the federal level right now, it is absolutely critical for Gov. Cuomo to live up to New York’s designation as the first “age-friendly state,” to take a moral stand for New Yorkers by modeling the path toward a caring economy that works for all of us.

During today’s State of the State speech, Governor Cuomo included the very important policies of: raising the minimum wage; providing paid leave and universal Pre-K; supporting workers who form a union; preserving Medicaid, CHIP, and access to health care; increasing education funding, recognizing the value of immigrants; ensuring all New Yorkers’ rights are protected; and fighting back against federal policies that hurt New Yorkers. However, the New York Caring Majority was dismayed to not hear about the Governor’s goals for providing quality in-home services for New York residents in need of home care, a plan that would improve people’s quality of life and make our state truly deserving of our “age-friendly” designation. We recognize that threats to federal funding require a greater investment of state dollars. This is money well spent, keeping individuals out of institutions and living as independently as possible within their communities.

We also applaud the Governor’s focus on workforce development for the future of jobs in New York State, but we hope that he does not overlook the home care workers who provide essential services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities. They comprise one of the largest and fastest-growing occupational groups in New York State: the number of home care workers in the state is projected to grow from 325,000 in 2014 to 450,000 by 2024. The increased demand for home care workers is driven by the aging population and the shift from institutional to home and community-based long-term care. However, the poor quality of home care jobs—including low compensation, limited training, and minimal advancement opportunities—pushes many workers toward other employment sectors, especially as the economy improves. New York is already facing a home care workforce shortage as a result. Unless policymakers take action now, the gap between the need for home care and the supply of workers will continue to worsen. To further strengthen the home care workforce, we propose that Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature create the Home Care Jobs Innovation Fund—to invest in pilot projects throughout the state that test innovative strategies for recruiting and retaining home care workers - and that they make investments in home care to increase wages and enforce existing laws that protect workers and consumers alike.

The state needs a plan for supporting New Yorkers to live and age with independence and dignity. The New York Caring Majority (NYCM) coalition, which is fighting for universal long-term care and quality care jobs, has that plan. The coalition calls on Gov. Cuomo to join us.

New York has the opportunity to be a model in caregiving. In a moment when so many are at terrible risk, the New York Caring Majority is bringing together many of New York’s most vulnerable residents to fight for a more caring economy,” said NYCM Steering Committee Member and Director of Organizing for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Rachel McCullough. “We must take a stand and strengthen, rather than slash, supports and services for people whose lives depend on them. Doing this while creating dignified care jobs, disproportionately done by women of color, is critical to meeting the needs of all New Yorkers - across party lines, race, class, immigration status and region. At a time of great turmoil, we need leaders with vision and the courage to bring the majority of us together around what we believe: we all deserve dignified care at home and respect on the job.

Our state has much work to do in order to meet the current and future needs of people with disabilities and older adults who deserve to remain independent and at home. Making that possible will require greater investments in our home care system, the home care workforce, and in supports for family caregivers. While a system of community based services exists, an estimated 16,000 older New Yorkers are on waiting lists for these critical services, including case management, transportation and other vital supports that promote independence. Without investment, these numbers will continue to grow. Nobody should be on a waitlist for these services. The impact of investing in this system will be both local and powerful, serving seniors who have been desperately waiting to be served. Meanwhile, as is the nationwide trend, New York has a shortage of paid caregivers. Low wages, a lack of benefits, and challenging working conditions mean it is hard to fill job vacancies. To attract and retain the number of paid caregivers we need to meet the demand, we must make caregiving jobs quality, family-sustaining jobs. The NYCM has many proposals, including this one from PHI, to put us on a path toward valuing our state’s seniors, people with disabilities, care workers, and family members alike. It’s time to invest in New York’s caring majority.

The New York Caring Majority wants to make home care affordable and available to all who need it, to create the quality long-term care jobs we need to meet our growing demand, and to defend essential programs such as Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, and the Affordable Care Act. If you agree and want to voice your support to Gov. Cuomo on the state’s investment in home care, send a postcard through our website today.

 

Nathan Henderson-James