New York home care providers that have been waiting to see if a caregiver wage hike would be included in the state budget recently got an answer.
On Monday, the New York state budget was released, with the Health and Mental Hygiene bill published at the same time. The bill did not include the Fair Pay for Home Care Act, which calls for caregivers to be paid 112% of minimum wage or the applicable wage law in any given area.
The New York state legislature passed the final budget late Tuesday, leaving off the wage-mandate provisions in appropriations measures.
Separate from the Fair Pay for Home Care Act, the budget does include appropriations for investment in home- and community-based services using the increased share of federal FMAP funds, Roger Noyes, director of communications at the Home Care Association of New York State (HCA-NYS), told Home Health Care News.
“The state opted to set aside a proposal for worker wage support, through an enhanced minimum wage mandate, for a variety of reasons, one of which is the long-term financial obligation of implementing a wage mandate,” Noyes said. “Some of those funds that would have been appropriated for that purpose are now being redirected along with other funds through the FMAP increase into a new purpose for home- and community-based services.”
Noyes noted that the exact target of those funds remains unknown at this time.
The budget gives the Cuomo administration considerable latitude in how those funds are to be expended at a future time.
“The fund leaves a lot of discretion for state agency commissioners to [use] those dollars through non-competitive contracts, grants or a number of other mechanisms,” he said. “Our understanding is that the funds are to be used for home- and community-based services with an eye toward worker supports. We’re going to be working very actively with the relevant agencies at the state level to advocate for an effective implementation method that benefits patients, workers and agencies, equitably across the system of services in New York state.”
In all likelihood, worker wages will remain at the forefront of the home care conversation, especially in New York, where home-based caregiving is one of the fastest-growing and largest workforces.
Like in nearly all U.S. states, the demand for caregivers exceeds the amount of available workers. On average, 17% of home care positions are currently left unfilled, according to data from the City University of New York.
Low wages play a role in the difficulty of filling these positions, as well as retaining workers. The median hourly income for a New York caregiver is $13.80, and the median annual income is $22,000.
Looking ahead, Noyes urges policymakers who are deciding what to do with these funds to consider the full scale of what’s needed to address a number of systemic needs in the home care space.
“A lot of pieces must come together to address some of the large-scale issues that we know need systemic support.”