Home care workers are employed by more than half a million California residents. However, many are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for these services, according to a report from the Labor Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
A pilot program in San Francisco County, called Support at Home, is addressing this issue by making home care available to local residents and ensuring that carers receive fair and decent wages.
The program was launched by an alliance of community groups including the Bay Area Care Council and the Long Term Care Coordinating Council. The initiative is also supported by local organizations such as the domestic employer network Hand in Hand and Senior & Disability Action, a group that advocates for seniors and people with disabilities.
A catch 22
For more than 14,000 older adults and adults with disabilities in San Francisco, paying for home care can be a “financial catch,” according to Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior & Disability Action.
Many of these citizens make too much money to qualify for the state’s low-income health plan, Medi-Cal, but don’t have enough incomes to pay for home care services out of pocket, she said.
“As a result, thousands of San Francisco residents are paying out of pocket for home care and their companions cannot earn a living wage,” Lehman said in a press release.
Support at Home addresses both of these issues by providing vouchers to pay for home care services– –such as cooking, shopping, cleaning and bathing – for eligible residents who earn up to 100% of the regional median income, but cannot exceed it.
The pilot is managed by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Institute for Aging Research. Funding is provided by the City and County of San Francisco through the Seniors and Adult Services Division. In total, Support at Home will provide financial assistance to 175 to 250 San Francisco residents in need of home care, according to a press release.
The program has had more than 50 participants since it started in late August, Hand in Hand organizer Lindsay Imai Hong told Home Health Care News.
Now the group is working to mobilize and raise awareness of the program in hopes of creating a viable proposition for citizens in need of home care.
“We hope it will be a permanent program,” said Hong. “We have received approved funding [from the City and County of San Francisco] for two years, and so the hope is that within those two years we can begin to address the need [and] Make sure the program delivery goes smoothly. “
A worthwhile wage
Another component that the program addresses is the home care worker pay gap.
The voucher program ensures that participating caregivers are paid fairly and receive a standard wage of USD 15 per hour.
“This is a subsidy program, so home care customers or consumers must pay part of the wages,” said Hong. “In the agency model, it looks like the consumer pays the agency for a portion of the care wages, and then the Support at Home program supports a portion of the wages for that home care agency.”
Hong said the program also provides training for caregivers to understand their rights as domestic workers.
“The National Domestic Worker Coalition and the California Domestic Worker Coalition have jointly agreed with the Institute on Aging that every employee who is hired directly as a direct recruiter rather than an agency should complete a training course in which they can learn their rights as a domestic servant, ”she said. “It’s just another way of making sure they’re treated well, but also [a way for them to] know how to stand up for yourself. “
For Lourdes Dobarganes, a member of La Colectiva de Mujeres, the pilot program ensures fair justice for home care workers like her. La Colectiva de Mujeres is a group that advocates for migrant women and connects them with professional resources and jobs.
“I take pride in my work and my work enables me to meet my basic needs and those of my family,” Dobarganes said at a press conference announcing the pilot program. “The Home Assistance Program will allow care to be valued in decent working conditions, while those in need of home care receive these services and live their lives with dignity.”
Written by Carlo Calma