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Unfunded, Minimum Wage Raise Would Disrupt Home Care Services in New York, Advocates Say

March 16, 2016

Several New York organizations held rallies across the state on March 11, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to provide dedicated funding to home care providers to pay for his proposed state minimum wage increase.

The groups — which include NYSARC, the Healthcare Association of New York State, and others — say that they support raising the state minimum wage to $15/hour, but warn that home care services would likely be disrupted without a proportional Medicaid rate increase.

The rallies drew hundreds of people to New York City, Buffalo, Albany, Rochester, and Long Island.

“We support higher wages for working people — including our employees — but this is a devastating problem that can’t be solved without help from the Governor,” NYSARC executive director Steve Kroll told Politico New York on March 15.

An NYSARC online petition calling on Cuomo and the legislature to fund the proposed wage increase has garnered more than 10,000 signatures, and a corresponding social media campaign using the hashtag #bFair2DirectCare has been active on Facebook and Twitter.

Concerns over Medicaid

Cuomo became the first governor to publicly advocate for a $15 minimum wage last September. His plan, still tentative, would gradually raise the minimum wage from its current level of $9/hour to $15 by the end of 2018 in New York City and mid-2021 in the rest of the state.

Cuomo’s budget proposal, however, does not specifically address how home care providers and others paid by Medicaid who use direct-care workers would bear the costs of such an increase. New York’s home care providers largely rely on Medicaid to pay the wages and benefits of their workers, but the governor’s budget proposal does not include a Medicaid rate increase.

Responding to criticism from home care providers over this issue, a Cuomo aide told the Daily News that any anxiety over how they will pay their workers higher wages is “premature,” since the plan is nowhere near finalized.

Attendees of the rallies say that they need the Cuomo administration to hammer down the details of funding the statewide increase soon, because New York’s fast-food workers and state employees are already in line for wage increases to $15/hour.

New York home care providers, already suffering record-high worker vacancy rates, would be weakened even further if forced to compete with fast-food restaurants for workers.

“We’re going to have areas of the state where you’ll get $15 an hour for working with fast food, but you’ll only be able to make $10 an hour caring for somebody,” LeadingAge NY vice president Amy Schnauber testified at a state budget hearing in January, Politico New York reported.

Home care jobs “are very hands-on jobs,” she added. “It’s a lot of hard work. It’s hard to imagine how you’re going to get quality workers under those conditions.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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