Addressing New York’s home care workforce crisis and helping LGBTQ+ elders age in place
Today, SAGE’s Senior Manager of Advocacy and Government Relations, MJ Okma, testified in front of the NYC Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor in support of the Fair Pay for Home Care Act (S.5374-A/A.6329-A).
Read the full testimony here:
Good afternoon, Chair De La Rosa and members of the New York City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor. My name is MJ Okma and I am the Senior Manager of Advocacy and Government Relations at SAGE, the country’s first and largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ older people.
SAGE has been serving LGBTQ+ elders and HIV-affected older New Yorkers for over four decades. With the support of the New York City Council, we provide comprehensive social services and community-building programs through our network of six LGBTQ+ older adult centers along with extensive virtual programming, and services for homebound LGBTQ+ elders and older New Yorkers living with HIV. Also, SAGE is proud of our role as on-site service provider in New York’s first LGBTQ+ welcoming elder housing developments located in Brooklyn and The Bronx.
LGBTQ+ elders are an important sub-population of older New Yorkers. Nearly one-third of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers are over the age of 50 and this rapidly growing population experiences greater disparities in both physical and behavioral health outcomes due to the cumulative effect of a lifetime of bias and discrimination.[i] Distrust in health and social services due to the fear of continued discrimination can lead LGBTQ+ older people to delay seeking needed care and result in premature institutionalization in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.[ii] Many of these fears are exacerbated for transgender elders and those living with HIV who face additional stigma and privacy concerns.
Home care can help preserve independence and access to community and chosen family, however, high turnover and vacancy rates in the home care field hinders the ability to build trust needed to break down the barriers between LGBTQ+ elders and access to essential home care services.
SAGE strongly supports Resolution 0024-2022 and The Fair Pay for Home Care Act (S.5374-A/A.6329-A) to address New York’s home care workforce crisis and help ensure LGBTQ+ elders can access the supports they need to age in place.
New York is currently facing a labor shortfall of home care workers, while those in the field are under-compensated and exhausted.[iii] As the aging population grows along with the interest for supports to allow more older people to age in place, demand for home care workers is will skyrocket. In New York State, the number of home health aide and personal care aide jobs is projected to rise from 440,000 in 2018 to over 700,000 by 2028.[iv] This growth coincides with an increase of LGBTQ+ elders who experience increased rates of disability, poor physical and mental health, alcohol and tobacco use, and HIV.[v]
Fair Pay for Home Care is necessary for both the givers and receivers of care. We must end the unacceptable poverty wages for home care workers, an essential workforce which is 90% women, 67% immigrants, and 75% women of color.[vi] Investing in this workforce would advance racial and gender equity, eliminate the home care labor shortage, and help increase access to LGBTQ+ competent care.
SAGE stands in strong support of Resolution 0024-2022 and the Fair Pay for Home Care Act (S.5374-A/A.6329-A). Thank you, Chair De La Rosa, for holding this important hearing, Council Member Hudson for championing this resolution, and to all the co-sponsors of Resolution 0024-2022.
[i] AARP NY, “Disrupting Disparities: Solutions for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers 50+,” January 2021 https://aarp-states.brightspotcdn.com/ca/eb/c2353b1e45b3a7fa0f15991c47a6/disparities-lgbtq-full-final-spread-v4.pdf
[iii] The Graduate Center and School of Labor and Urban Studies, City University of New York, “The Case for Public Investment in Higher Pay for New York State Home Care Workers: Estimated Cost and Savings,” March 2021 https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1806&context=gc_pubs
[v] AARP NY, “Disrupting Disparities: Solutions for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers 50+,” January 2021 https://aarp-states.brightspotcdn.com/ca/eb/c2353b1e45b3a7fa0f15991c47a6/disparities-lgbtq-full-final-spread-v4.pdf
[vi] Institute for Policy Studies, “For New York Home Care Workers, Fair Pay Is Possible,” February 2022 https://ips-dc.org/new-york-home-care-workers/