PHI announced Tuesday that it has launched a multi-state advocacy initiative centered on improving working conditions for caregivers.
PHI’s “Essential Jobs, Essential Care” initiative aims to advocate for state laws and regulations that strengthen the caregiver workforce over the next two years.
The initiative will be based in Michigan, New Mexico and North Carolina. It is a collaborative effort with three coalitions: IMPART Alliance, the New Mexico Caregivers Coalition and the North Carolina Coalition on Aging.
“These three states have strong, statewide coalitions, with a long history of success and collaboration on these issues,” Robert Espinoza, PHI’s vice president of policy, told Home Health Care News in an email. “The three states also span three different regions of the country, which is important from a national perspective.”
PHI is a New York-based advocacy organization for direct care workers.
With the new initiative, PHI and its partners have taken a state-focused approach based on the past progress seen at this level, according to Espinoza.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much progress at the federal level for the direct care workforce — most federal proposals that have been introduced over the last few years haven’t gained much traction,” Espinoza said. “In contrast, states around the country are leading the way on this workforce, creating statewide workgroups to develop action plans for these workers, passing laws that raise wages and strengthen training requirements, and so much more.”
While the caregiver workforce has faced longstanding challenges, COVID-19 has shed a light on the major role they play in senior care.
“More than ever, as COVID-19 has emphasized, direct care workers are critical to the lives of older adults and people with disabilities, and states should ensure that these workers are fully supported through high-quality jobs,” Jodi M. Sturgeon, president of PHI said in a press release.
Overall, about 2.4 million individuals make up the home care workforce, according to PHI data.
One of the key goals of the initiative will be to increase compensation and state funding.
Last year, caregivers earned an annual income of $17,200. Almost half of home care workers live in low-income households, with roughly 39% lacking affordable housing and 54% relying on some form of public assistance.
In addition to advocating for wage increases, the initiative plans to invest in workforce training and data on the caregiver workforce in order to help states track trends and shortages.
The initiative also plans to address systemic racism and gender injustice, which impacts the caregiver workforce, which largely consists of women and people of color.
“In this spirit, we’ll be identifying policy opportunities at the state level that address racial and gender barriers for direct care workers and consumers,” Espinoza said.
While PHI has no plans to expand this initiative outside of Michigan, New Mexico, and North Carolina at this point, the organization will release a digital advocacy toolkit at the end of 2022. The toolkit will serve as a guide for advocates in other states.