Fragmented system and poverty wages have created a crisis-level
shortage of home care workers; tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities are going without necessary care
Caregivers are leading the way to fix the system with AB 1672 (Haney) & meet soaring demand from aging population
Sacramento, CA – California’s caregivers for seniors and people with disabilities kicked off a new initiative to keep the promise of living and aging at home for a rapidly growing senior population. At a State Capitol news conference, home care workers from SEIU 2015 and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930 joined Asm. Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) to unveil AB1672, a bill that empowers caregivers to transform California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program statewide and protect the right and freedom for Californians to receive care in the setting of one’s choice.
“We’re about ready to go over a care cliff in California, when the number of people expected to need IHSS services explodes to nearly double in seven short years,” said SEIU Local 2015 President Arnulfo De La Cruz. “We have a broken system that too often leaves those needing care unable to find it and those providing care—mostly women of color—unable to stay afloat. This requires bold vision at the state level to meet the growing need and to think carefully and strategically about addressing the growing demand.”
“For too long IHSS providers have been left to bargain for scraps at the local level, resulting in a fragmented system that allows counties to get away with paying caregivers unlivable wages,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “The only way we can make real, transformative change is through statewide bargaining. As the fifth largest economy in the world, it only makes sense that California should lead the way when it comes to care.”
“Home care workers and the people we care for are invaluable but the system doesn’t treat us that way,” said Sydney O’Connor of Tehachapi, CA. “IHSS caregivers are leading the transformation California needs to make the promise of aging at home a reality for everyone who needs care.”
“It’s difficult to find care. When I first enrolled in the program, I visited the E.R. probably a dozen times while waiting to find a caregiver,” said Russell Rawlings, an IHSS consumer and disability rights organizer. “I’ve watched people forced into skilled nursing facilities because they ran out of options while waiting to find caregivers.”
“My daughter with Downs Syndrome choked once when she was younger. Care providers really need access to training, including basic CPR skills. I wasn’t even trained to perform the Heimlich maneuver,” said Rachel Gonzales, an IHSS care provider in Sacramento County. “Luckily, I’d heard that smaller children need to be on their back and I pushed on her diaphragm. We were lucky. But it shouldn’t come down to luck. And it needs to be real training—not 15 minutes in a doctor’s office.”
California is experiencing a caregiving crisis, with the State Auditor reporting before the pandemic that roughly 40,000 IHSS clients were going without the care they needed each month because there are simply too few providers. Fragmented program administration, split between 56 public authorities, keeps workers constantly struggling for marginal wage gains. Most counties pay barely above minimum wage; not a single county in California pays home care providers a living wage.
“With the population of older adults growing and caregivers leaving the workforce at alarming rates, we are on a collision course that will end with our most vulnerable Californians lacking the care they need,” said Asm. Haney. “It’s time California provided caregivers with the recognition, living wages, benefits, and training opportunities that they deserve so that we guarantee care to those who need it most.”
As expert on aging and policy Fernando Torres-Gil noted in last week’s Sacramento Bee article on the bill: “We have a crisis. We have a huge and growing unmet need. We have a workforce that has been disrespected, and there are fewer people willing to do this kind of work.”
Joined by the people for whom they provide care, and holding colorful signs declaring “Our Care Counts!” members of SEIU 2015 and UDW vowed to lead the fight to protect the human right to home care. Their effort will also save the state money by helping clients avoid costly nursing home care. Between $22,000 and $153,000 is saved each year for every recipient who would otherwise be cared for in a long-term facility provided through Medi-Cal, according to California’s State Auditor.
With a fragmented system that has the home care workforce bargaining with 56 individual public authorities, California keeps caregivers bargaining for marginal wage increases.
AB 1672 will empower workers to negotiate directly with State government to make changes needed to recruit, train, and retain the home care workforce California needs as we age, shifting the responsibility to bargain from the counties to the state. In other states with statewide bargaining for in-home supportive services, caregivers have negotiated improvements that stabilize the workforce, from statewide training programs to contributions to retirement security.
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AB 1672—“Our Care Counts”—is supported by SEIU 2015, which represents approximately 420,000 IHSS providers across 37 counties, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, which represents more than 140,000 IHSS providers in 21 counties.