Briefing Highlights COVID-19 Impact on Home Care Workers and Exposure of Pre-Existing Problems Across the IHSS System
Los Angeles, CA — September 30, 2020 — Today, April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015, the nation’s largest long term caregivers union and largest union in the state of California representing over 400,000 nursing home and home care workers, will brief the House Committee on Education and Labor.
California’s In-Home Support Services (IHSS) program funds home care for the state’s seniors and people with disabilities, allowing them to live safely and independently in their own homes. Verrett’s briefing recognized IHSS workers who care for these vulnerable populations that are more at risk to COVID-19 death. The urgency to cultivate a well-prepared workforce in adequate numbers in order to meet the healthcare needs of these individuals and keep them at home, rather than in congregate settings where the risk of infection is even higher, was the center of the remarks.
“The truth is that home care workers are fighting three simultaneous crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic meltdown and structural racism. The poor quality of home care jobs can be directly linked to racism and sexism and the legacy of slavery in the United States. Sixty-two percent of home care workers are people of color and women make up almost 90 percent of the home care workforce,” explained Verrett.
Key Takeaways Include:
- Historical context of home care workers left out of labor rights and job protections; and description of how prioritizing the workforce would help address economic inequality based in structural racism and sexism;
- Growing issues with recruitment, retention and turnover – which can be upwards of 60 percent for these workers;
- The need to support this growing sector predominantly composed of women of color who are providing essential services in great demand, and ensuring that home care jobs are good jobs;
- The need for congress to pass a new COVID-19 relief package which includes significant new state and local funding, an increased Medicaid FMAP reimbursement, and targeted funding specifically for HCBS to ensure the sustainability of these programs for seniors and people with disabilities;
- How the home care system is by nature fragmented with workers disaggregated and with no common worksite, making it difficult for workers to receive information, get COVID-19 related safety training, or have access to personal protective equipment.
“Unfortunately, the current system denies most direct care workers a viable path to unionization. Rules are rigged against workers who try to unionize, and employers have free reign to block workers who try to organize at every turn,” added Verrett. “During this great tragedy, there is an opportunity to learn and do better. I hope that as a nation, we take that opportunity.”
Verrett’s briefing also detailed personal stories of those who work in home care, and the impact of COVID-19 they have been reeling from across the country. In addition to being the President of SEIU Local 2015, April Verrett serves as a Vice President on the SEIU International Executive board and Chair of the SEIU Home Care Council, composed of home care locals from across the country that represent more than 740,000 home care workers nationwide.