Long-term care providers speak out for livable wages and solutions to Humboldt County’s severe caregiver shortage

Press Contact:
Mara Ortenburger, marao@seiu2015.org(510) 410-2997
August 8, 2023

Eureka, CA – Today, members of SEIU Local 2015 – the nation’s largest long-term care union and California’s largest labor union representing nearly 450,000 nursing home workers and home care providers – held a rally at the Humboldt County Courthouse to demand livable wages and solutions to the county’s severe caregiver shortage.  

In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers are calling on the Humboldt Board of Supervisors to take decisive action to ensure seniors and people with disabilities can access the life-saving care they need. These providers have been bargaining with the County for more than a year, but the County has failed to offer a wage proposal that reflects the essential role of IHSS workers.

IHSS workers are a vital part of Humboldt County’s long-term care workforce, but low wages (barely above minimum wage) and nonexistent benefits have made it difficult to attract and retain caregivers. Some are being forced to leave the profession altogether – worsening an already severe care shortage.

Last year, more than 545,000 authorized care hours went unused in the county. This means Humboldt County Health and Human Services was unable to find caregivers to work 545,000 care hours that seniors and people with disabilities requested and desperately need. 

The IHSS shortage here is much more severe than other parts of California. In 2022, the statewide average of unfulfilled hours was 5.1% while Humboldt County’s average was 16.3%. In fact, Humboldt County has the fourth worst provider shortage in the entire state

Seniors and people with disabilities in Humboldt’s vast, rural areas have limited access to healthcare facilities and transportation options. IHSS workers are vital links in this context, offering crucial care to those who struggle to reach medical centers or specialized services. The provider shortage jeopardizes the safety and wellbeing of these populations – especially in the most rural parts of the county. 

“These dedicated workers put themselves on the front lines every day, caring for older adults and those with disabilities, yet they don’t earn the livable wages they need. It’s time for policymakers to finally recognize the important nature of in-home care by paying our providers livable wages,” said Arnulfo De La Cruz, President of SEIU Local 2015

“IHSS providers like me cook, clean, provide hygienic care, manage medications, handle medical equipment, and arrange transportation to appointments,” said caregiver Sievna Marie Limpangug. “We pour our hearts into keeping people safe and cared for, but in Humboldt County we don’t earn enough to always care for ourselves.” 

Across the country roughly 10,000 people turn 65 every day. As the number of older adults and people with disabilities who require in-home care continues to grow in Humboldt, it is critical that we attract more people to this workforce (and retain them).

SEIU Local 2015 is committed to advocating for policies that support in-home care providers and those they care for, including livable wages and benefits, as well as access to training and professional development opportunities. We urge the Board of Supervisors to work with us to address these pressing issues and ensure that all who qualify can access the care they need in the comfort of their own homes.

Participating SEIU members will be available on-site for interviews and can speak to today’s action.
To learn more about SEIU Local 2015 visit www.SEIU2015.org or on social media @SEIU2015.