On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Gov. Sisolak announced a historic increase in home care funding and a $15 minimum wage for caregivers in his state budget. The funding and wage increases, which workers have been strongly advocating for through their union, are groundbreaking steps toward ensuring quality care for seniors and people with disabilities.
Under Gov. Sisolak’s proposed budget, the Medicaid reimbursement rate – which employers receive for providing home care services and has remained essentially unchanged for almost two decades – would increase from $17.56 to $25 an hour. The median wage for Nevada’s 13,000 home care workers is currently around $11 an hour and has decreased over the past decade when adjusted for inflation. Nevada is facing a growing crisis because it is one of the fastest-aging states in the nation but has one of the lowest funding rates for home care services, creating a dire workforce shortage.
The funding and wage increases, which workers advocated for through their union, are groundbreaking for quality care.
Gov. Sisolak made the announcement at a voter turnout membership event focused on quality home care, drawing an eruption of boisterous applause from caregivers, seniors and people with disabilities in attendance.
“Governor Sisolak’s historic announcement of increased home care funding and a $15 minimum wage for caregivers makes me even more fired up to get him re-elected,” said Irma Nunez, who has been a home care worker in Las Vegas for over 13 years. “I care for many different seniors and people with disabilities across Las Vegas and carry out all the tasks that allow them to live in their own homes and communities with dignity. My work is essential, and I’ve stuck by my clients’ sides throughout the pandemic. But I’m paid as low as $10.50 an hour and don’t have any healthcare or paid sick days. With the cost of food, utilities and gas going way up, it’s a daily struggle just to survive. I’m going to be hitting the phones and knocking on doors, turning out the vote for our home care hero, Governor Steve Sisolak.”
At the event, home care workers outlined their strategy of mobilizing thousands of Nevada women, seniors and people of color to vote, which will be decisive in this election. Caregivers say it is imperative that they re-elect Gov. Sisolak and Democratic legislative leaders to make his budget a reality and ensure they are supported as they form their union. The event was hosted by the union that home care workers are organizing with, SEIU Local 1107, and the Fight For $15 Action Fund.
The home care workforce is 88% women and 58% people of color and contains disproportionate numbers of Black, Latina and Asian American Pacific Islander caregivers. They help with all the daily activities that enable seniors and people with disabilities to live at home with independence and quality of life.
Because the vast majority of Nevada seniors would prefer to age at home, demand for home care services has been skyrocketing. From 2008 to 2018, the state’s 65 and older population increased by 57%. Polling shows that home care has increasingly become a central issue for voters as the population ages. A recent AARP statewide survey found that nearly 80% of older voters say they will support candidates who prioritize accessible home care services.
Poverty wages, a lack of benefits and systemic racism have created severe difficulties with recruitment and retention of workers, and families increasingly cannot find caregivers for their loved ones. In a recent survey by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, just 5% of home care workers reported receiving health insurance from their employers, and 16% reported receiving paid time off. A research report by the nonpartisan Guinn Center found that one out of two home care workers leave their jobs in the first year, and Nevada will need 5,300 additional personal care aides by 2026.
Nevada’s home care workers have been calling for urgent solutions to this crisis, and Gov. Sisolak has listened. At the event, caregivers awarded Gov. Sisolak with the first-ever “Home Care Voter Seal of Approval” for both his budget announcement and the major steps forward he has already taken.
In June of last year, Gov. Sisolak signed Senate Bill 340 into law, which enabled the establishment of a first-in-the nation Home Care Employment Standards Board. The Standards Board has brought together workers, clients and employers at the table with government officials to create a set of concrete policy solutions. The Standards Board formally passed a recommendation calling for the increased Medicaid reimbursement rate and minimum wage for workers.
This year Gov. Sisolak also directed the Department of Health and Human Services to distribute an initial round of $500 checks to recognize workers’ sacrifices during the pandemic and a second round to retain workers who are struggling with inflation.
SEIU Nevada Local 1107 champions economic and racial justice and is committed to throwing open the doors for every working person to have the opportunity to join a union, no matter where they work. They represent over 19,000 workers in the healthcare and public sector across the entire state. Together, SEIU Nevada Local 1107 members fight for better wages, benefits, social justice and a better quality of life for all working Nevadans.