At May Day, “Future of Care” Events, Hundreds of Seniors, People With Disabilities, Care Workers, and Advocates Call for Strengthening Workforce that Cares for Aging and Disabled Californians

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Maya Polon,
Maria Elena Jauregui, 818-355-5291 (Spanish Language Media)
May 2, 2024
Posted in Press Release
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Getty images from the reception are available here

Sacramento, CA – On May Day, legislators joined California caregivers and advocates for older and disabled Californians to demand California fix our broken long-term care system, which leaves far too many disabled and aging Californians and their families without the support and services they need. Participants in the “Future of Care” events gathered to rally at noon and for an evening film and discussion regarding the future of caregiving.

“California is facing a looming care crisis and the state must step up to do our part to ensure that our aging and disabled neighbors have access to quality supportive care in their homes,” said Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland). “I am proud to stand today with workers, advocates, and seniors as they highlight the clear need to invest in this workforce.”

California’s long-term care workers’ unions and disabled and older adult advocates marked May Day, also known as International Workers Day, by spotlighting the growing and urgent need for long-term supports and services, and pointing to the workforce crisis that underpins it. In California, approximately 4.4 million people, mostly women, provide support for older adults and disabled people, providing a total of more than 4 billion total hours of care each year for a total economic value of around $81 billion. This has a profound impact on their lives, their economic security, and their ability to participate in the workforce.

Californians overwhelmingly want to receive support to live and age in their own homes and communities, but the ability to do so requires navigating a complicated patchwork of programs that are difficult to qualify for and vary in the level of support provided. For Californians who do not meet the strict eligibility for Medi-Cal, there are few options for care, because Medicare provides limited long-term care coverage and private long-term care insurance is prohibitively expensive with a shrinking market presence. The out-of-pocket market cost for home and community-based care is more than $80,000 annually. Because of this, Caring Across, Justice in Aging, SEIU 2015, UDW/AFSCME 3930 have come together to create “Re-envisioning the Future of Care in California: The Cost of Doing Nothing & the Case for Universal Access to Aging and Disability Care,” a report that was released during the event that focuses on the long-term care needs of older adults and disabled people and examines what is at stake for family caregivers, direct care workers, and the state as a whole if California does not invest in the growing demand for long-term care.

“Those who provide long-term, in-home care to aging and disabled Californians are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our system of care, which relies on them to fill the persistent economic and workforce gaps. The extent of the care crisis can easily spiral if impending budget cuts fail to consider the money we can save in the future by implementing preventative measures now. This is why, in my short tenure as a legislator and Chair of Budget Sub. 3, I have vocalized my support and fought to preserve investments that uplift caregivers. I am firmly committed to continuing that fight.” said Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley).

By 2030, one quarter of all Californians will be over the age of 60 – and California isn’t prepared to care for their needs, creating a looming care catastrophe. Most older adults and people with disabilities want to remain in their homes and communities, but our inadequate long-term care system does not support that. 

Our system of providing long-term care is not prepared for the growing need. Low pay, few or no benefits, and widespread wage theft are among the reasons that direct care providers leave the profession. This means there are too few providers relative to the need, leaving care recipients stranded in their homes or at risk for institutionalization.

Caregivers, the majority women of color, have historically been excluded from workplace protections because of racism and sexism. Continuing to devalue care work has immense repercussions for the state of California and the whole nation.

Workers and advocates said that in order to ensure that all people – young and old, no matter the color of their skin, the language they speak, where they are from, or where they live – have affordable, quality, respectful care, California must: 

  • Re-elect President Biden, the first president to elevate care as critical national infrastructure. 
  • Follow through on the commitment made in last year’s budget to create an IHSS program that can meet the growing need for care 
  • Make real investments into our care workforce and build a care system that respects, protects, and pays the essential workers

The “Future of Care” events were hosted by a broad coalition of labor and community groups. 

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our culture and policy to enable disabled people and aging adults to live with dignity in the setting of their choice; to ensure that our children can receive supportive and flexible child care; to guarantee we can take time to care for our loved ones and ourselves when we need it; and to guarantee that our nation’s care professionals can safely support their families with real worker protections, life-sustaining wages and benefits,” said Ai-jen Poo, Caring Across Generations’ Executive Director. “By coming together today and recognizing that we all have care in common, we can ensure that we are connected, supported, and uplifted as we care. In doing so, we not only build a stronger, more equitable and resilient economy, but we free future generations from the isolation that keeps us from demanding the care we deserve.”

“We stand on the precipice of a care crisis that threatens not just the elderly and disabled but the very fabric of our society. It’s time we prioritize and fortify the systems that care for our most vulnerable,” said Doug Moore, Executive Director of United Domestic Workers.

“Every day, across the state, older adults and their families encounter the overwhelming costs of long-term care that force them to make heart-breaking decisions. Older adults are moving into institutions because they can’t afford to get the help they need at home. Children are risking their own current and future financial security to help care for their aging parents while also caring for children. It’s long past time to invest in the older adults who helped build our state and the workers who perform this critical labor,” said Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director of Justice in Aging 

“The rising cost of living is impacting everyone. Homecare workers do not make enough to support themselves and our clients struggle to pay for both care and all their other needs. We need a system that allows caregivers and care recipients to afford housing, buy groceries and live fulfilling dignified lives. Everyone deserves good wages, affordable care, healthy workplaces and to continue living in their own communities,” said Josephine Biclair, worker leader from Pilipino Workers Center

“With one out of every five Californians expected to be 65 or older in ten years, we know that the need for care is skyrocketing. And we know that home care is the most preferred, most cost-effective way to support our older adults and those with disabilities. Yet we already don’t have enough caregivers to meet the current demand. Already, tens of thousands of older Californians and people with disabilities are going without the care they need and deserve,” said Arnulfo De La Cruz, President of SEIU 2015.

“We as care workers deserve respect. We carry out care work professionally and with the values of dignity and respect. We need a fair wage, and healthy and safe workplaces. Many of us are single mothers, we are heads of families and our children depend on us. And the families who employ us also deserve dignified care. We understand that our needs are interconnected. When California families do not have the support that they need, we care workers will not have a fair salary or dignified conditions either,” said Martha Herrara, worker leader of Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the California Domestic Workers Coalition

“I have a severe mobility disability and my team of IHSS providers are the only thing standing between a life of freedom and control and a life of dehumanization in a nursing facility.  I’m not an activist; I am a performer struggling to make ends meet who wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat at the thought that I am competing with my own baby boomer parents for a piece of the dwindling caregiver pie. I’m proud to speak up for the need to raise the wages and the benefits for homecare workers,” said Jade Theriault, member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network