SEIU: Home Care Jobs Bill Should Come Early in Clinton Presidency

Home care workers have been part of the dialogue throughout the 2016 presidential election, with U.S. Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton proposing tax reforms to support caregivers and Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump releasing a health plan that largely ignores impact on the home health care industry.

Now, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) vows to make health care jobs a priority for Clinton if she makes it to the White House, beginning with a jobs bill early in her presidency that invests in health care’s “human infrastructure,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry told Buzzfeed News. Clinton has already pledged investments in America’s infrastructure and interstate highway system, but SEIU wants the definition of infrastructure to incorporate child care and home care workers, as well. The Clinton campaign did not respond to Home Health Care News’ request for comment.

“We want infrastructure to be roads, bridges and highways, we’re for that, but we also want it to be child care and home care workers, which are the vast majority of jobs that are growing in the United States,” Henry said. “We want to expand how the nation thinks about infrastructure.”

Given the rate of growth of the home care profession combined with low wages, a jobs bill aimed at this workforce makes sense. The home care workforce doubled in size in the last decade to reach more than 2 million, according to a recent analysis from the independent Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, and estimates indicate 600,000 more new jobs over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the median pay for a home health aide in 2015 was $21,920 per year, or $10.54 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To address this, SEIU might work toward a jobs package focusing on home care workers that has a tax credit to help offset caregiving cost, or financing public programs so that families can have access to affordable childcare, according to Sahar Wali, SEIU national communications director.

Clinton’s own set of initiatives geared toward caregiving families and home care workers includes a tax credit to offset up to $6,000 in costs associated with caring for elderly and disabled family members and expands Social Security benefits to individuals acting as unpaid caregivers for loved ones. The credit would max out at $1,200 for qualifying families, according to a fact sheet on the plan, while the Social Security expansion would allow Americans to accrue credit toward their Social Security benefits when they are out of the pad workforce due to caregiving requirements.

SEIU, which represents half a million home care workers, has also been actively involved in the Fight for 15 movement, which has prompted a number of cities and states to raise their minimum wages. The home health industry has even taken up the cause, with caregivers in Washington state most recently winning $16 wages. The issue is also an integral part of the Clinton campaign, as she has supported a $12 national minimum wage.

SEIU has been consulting with the Clinton team in its mission to improve home health wages and working conditions, SEIU told HHCN. Clinton also met with home care workers and consumers in California last year and has continued to engage with this specific labor force.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt