After coming up short in this year’s budget negotiations to get a minimum wage increase for home care workers, Senate Aging Committee Chair Rachel May is turning her attention to a 2022 advocacy campaign, which could kick off with a hearing next month.
“This is clearly something that has to be done in the context of the budget – it costs a lot of money – and we don’t typically pass a lot of legislation in the second part of the session that has a big fiscal impact. So my priority is going to be on raising awareness, making sure my colleagues are on board and making sure the Assembly is on board and really getting all our ducks in a row so we can get out the gate in January and make this happen,” May told The Capitol Pressroom.
The one-house budget from the Senate Democrats invested $624 million into home care wages, which would have increased the minimum salaries by about 12 percent. Fully funding a 50 percent increase, as called for in the Fair Pay for Home Care Act, would cost about $4 billion, according to May.
“If you invested that four billion, you would get a payoff of about $7.6 billion in return both from keeping people out of nursing homes, which costs Medicaid a lot more, and keeping people in their homes,” she said.
May said the raise was a victim of “too many competing interests” in this year’s budget.
“I wasn’t in the room where the negotiations were happening. I do know that Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins made this a very high priority – she pushed extremely hard for it – and what I was told was that there were problems with guaranteeing that the money would go to the workers and not just end up with the agencies. And that’s a real problem if you’re going to allocate that much money in the budget, you want to make sure it goes to the people it’s intended for. I think we could have solved that problem,” she said.