by Kate Wolffe
A new bill proposed in the California legislature would allow in-home care workers to bargain with the state for better working conditions, instead of on a county-by-county basis.
Over 650,000 people who are elderly, disabled or sight impaired rely on home care aides to help them with daily tasks through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program, or IHSS. These tasks include bathing, dressing, eating, cleaning and cooking. About 550,000 work through IHSS and most are women of color, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute.
Assembly Bill 1672, authored by Assembly member Matt Haney, a Democrat representing San Francisco, aims to bolster that labor force and give it more collective bargaining power with the Department of Health Care Services. According to Haney, 30 counties in California don’t have a contract with their in-home service providers and the majority pay either the minimum wage of $15.50, or one or two dollars above it.
In 2021, an audit of the IHSS system found that it’s not meeting the needs of the number of people who require and desire home-care services. The state’s former auditor, Elaine Howell, found that in 2019, 40,000 people weren’t able to access the amount of care they needed.
The audit also found that the current system isn’t built to accommodate the growing population of seniors, which is forecasted to reach 8.5 million in 2030, up from six million in 2019.
“When we don’t provide for [home care workers], we have to pay more on the back end,” Haney said. “People who can’t receive care at home and are forced to be institutionalized as a result cost the state and counties a lot more.”
Rachel Gonzales, who cares for her nonverbal 11-year-old daughter Grace in northern Sacramento County neighborhood Mather, said advocating for herself and her daughter has become a second full time job. She added that trying to manage responsibilities while bargaining for an hourly wage increase is “mind-bogglingly difficult.”
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