Boards of Supervisors in Fresno, Sacramento, and San Benito counties fail to address urgent needs
Today, in-home care providers and 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—participated in actions across the state in an escalation of their ongoing call for livable wages and healthcare benefits.
Across California, in-home care providers—who care for the state’s older adults and people with disabilities—mobilized in Fresno, Sacramento, and San Benito counties to bring light to the urgent challenges they experience due to low wages and inadequate healthcare benefits. Despite the critical role these caregivers serve in their communities, local elected officials have refused to negotiate in good faith to approve modest increases to their pay and benefits.
In Sacramento County, the Board of Supervisors has cynically held caregivers’ healthcare hostage, publicly stating that any further wage increases would come at the cost of reduced health coverage. In Fresno, the board threatens to completely eliminate healthcare coverage in order to bring their shockingly lowball offer of a 15¢ raise up to 85¢. Supervisors in both counties have even noted that many providers qualify for Medi-Cal—a tacit acknowledgement that the wages they offer caregivers is so low. And in San Benito, in-home care providers are not even offered healthcare benefits.
“Today, in-home care providers across California are united in their call for living wages and improved healthcare benefits,” said Arnulfo De La Cruz, President of SEIU Local 2015. “It is a tragic paradox that so many in-home caregivers across our state can neither afford to live in or access healthcare in the communities where they work. As the need for in-home care continues to grow in California, it is critical that we attract and retain long-term care workers by paying them and providing them with the benefits that they deserve.”
Recent polling of in-home care workers in Fresno and Sacramento County underscores the urgent challenges that many of these essential workers face in making ends meet. Some of the distressing findings include:
- In Fresno:
- More than 80% of home care providers reported working multiple jobs – at least some of the time – just to make ends meet. That’s 4 out of every 5 providers in the county.
- More than 55% of IHSS providers are sometimes or often unable to access medication because they cannot afford the cost of prescriptions. More than 57% of IHSS providers reported that they’re often or sometimes prevented from visiting the doctor due to concerns about cost.
- Almost half of home care providers experience consistent food insecurity and are forced to rely on CalFresh and/or food banks.
- Nearly 55% of home care providers have difficulty paying their mortgage or rent each month, with many reporting that they are sometimes or always late with their payments.
- In Sacramento:
- More than 60% of home care providers are unable to access medication because they can’t afford the cost of prescriptions.
- Nearly 60% of home care providers have had to skip a doctor’s visit due to financial concerns.
- Nearly three-quarters of home care providers have difficulty paying their mortgage/rent each month, with many reporting they are sometimes or always late with payments.
These issues continue to exacerbate the already significant staffing challenges affecting California’s long-term care system, with thousands of care providers leaving the industry every year in search of better-paying jobs. For example, last year nearly a million authorized care hours went unused in Fresno County, indicating thousands of people had difficulty finding care. Additionally, across the country, approximately 10,000 people turn 65 every day. As this number of older adults and people with disabilities who require in-home care continues to grow throughout California, it is critical to attract, and retain, a more robust workforce to meet the need.
“The low wages my fellow in-home care providers are paid make it tough for us to make ends meet,” said Wendy Davenport, a Fresno County in-home care provider. “Many of us work multiple jobs, facing food insecurity and housing challenges. Access to healthcare is often out of reach. We need Fresno County’s support for a livable wage and better benefits, so we can provide quality care and live decently in our community.” Read Wendy’s story here.
“The wages are not enough to live on and are less than what we deserve. Many people who look for employment try to get a job to get health insurance and we don’t get that either,” said Norma Gutierrez, an in-home care provider and SEIU 2015 member who left San Benito for a county with better benefits. “How can a county not provide health insurance for so long? I’m embarrassed to be going back and forth asking for the same thing.” Read Norma’s full story here.
“Many of us are only one paycheck away from being homeless,” said Andrea Noble, a Sacramento County in-home care provider. “We take care of human beings and can’t get a livable wage. Our Supervisors’ inaction shows their lack of appreciation for the hard work we do and the people we care for.”
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 these County Boards of Supervisors to work with us to address these pressing issues and ensure that all who qualify have access to the care they need and deserve in the comfort of their own homes.
To learn more about SEIU Local 2015 visit www.SEIU2015.org.