ALBANY — Legislation expected to be adopted as part of a new $229 billion state budget does nothing to alleviate a home care staffing shortage that has reached crisis levels, advocates for those workers said Monday.
“We are going to continue to lose workers,” Bryan O’Malley, director of the Consumer Assisted Personal Assistance Association of New York State, told CNHI. “We are certainly not going to get the influx of new workers we need to offset the damage that has already been done.”
O’Malley’s non-profit association is one of several organizations that formed a united front called the New York Caring Majority to push for higher wages and benefits for home care workers.
Ilana Berger, director of the Caring Majority, said the Hochul administration is cutting $1.55 from the hourly wages of more than 300,000 home care workers.
Members of Hochul’s public relations team did not respond to the criticism.
Hochul did go on a New York City television station Monday night to put a positive spin on changes to the controversial bail law, saying she expects legislation in the emerging budget to expand the discretion judges have to remand defendants to jail at their arraignments.
The advocates for home care workers argued the budget bills allow private insurance companies to legally “siphon” hundreds of millions of dollars that should be going into the paychecks of home care aides.
“As long as New York State continues to underpay home care workers, more older adults and disabled New Yorkers will be left without care or forced into nursing homes,” Berger said.
With inflation continuing to take its toll on paychecks, advocates for mental health aides are also arguing that workers are being shortchanged by the emerging budget bills.
“Where is the fairness and equitability for human service providers?” said Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association of New York State.
Liebman’s group had been pushing for an 8.5% cost of living adjustment for mental health workers, but the spending plan advancing at the statehouse will leave them with a total of 4%, translating into what he said amounts to a pay cut given the pace of inflation.
He argued more robust state investments in mental health could reduce waiting lists for services, result in less incarceration, slash emergency room visits and “most importantly less deaths of despair due to overdose and suicide completion.”
Lawmakers said the bulk of the remaining budget legislation is expected to be approved Tuesday following weeks of tense negotiations between Hochul’s representatives and aides to the Democratic leaders of the state Senate and Assembly.
Upstate Republican lawmakers have been highly critical of the process. They are expected to vote against the budget bills, pointing out the latest fiscal blueprint increases total state spending by $8 billion since last year.
Sen. James Tedisco, R-Saratoga County, called the budget “not only pie in the sky, it’s pie and pork in the sky.”
Tedisco said the spending plan represents the fourth successive year the state will have failed to produce an “on-time, fiscally responsible budget,” contending policies enacted in Albany has led to New York capturing “the dubious distinction of being Number One in out-migration of all 50 states.”
Hochul, meanwhile, told WCBS that having a late budget was necessary in order for her administration to get the changes it wanted in the state bail laws.
But one district attorney, Michael McMahon of Staten Island, said even with the changes there are still too many criminal offenses that will be ineligible for bail.
“I vehemently disagree with that assessment,” Hochul told the television station in a Manhattan interview.
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