By Allan Freyer
DIrector, Workers' Rights Project
Home healthcare workers are earning wages that pay far below what it takes to make ends meet in every county across North Carolina, weakening the overall economy and damaging the quality of long-term care seniors receive in their homes. The General Assembly must address this looming crisis in long-term care by reforming the state’s Medicaid program to ensure homecare workers earn adequate wages.
Direct homecare occupations like personal care aides, home health aides, and nurses assistants are some of the fastest growing in North Carolina’s economy—a trend that will only accelerate as demand for home healthcare services expand with the aging of the state’s baby boomer generation. In fact, the population over 65 is projected to more than double by 2050, indicating a growing need for direct care that allows seniors to continue to live in their homes with dignity. Unfortunately, these growing occupations pay some of the lowest wages in the economy—the median homecare worker in North Carolina earned less than $10 an hour in 2015. That means that half of all home healthcare workers aren’t earning enough to rise above the federal poverty line despite working full-time.
Raising caregiver wages will boost the economy by ensuring that more workers earn wages that allow them to afford the basics and support their families. Bigger paychecks mean higher sales and larger profi ts at local businesses, in turn fostering vibrant communities.