The day – Nursing aides call for paid sick leave, health insurance
As a personal care assistant at Ansonia, Angel Bailey said she liked to work but limited her work to 24 hours a week so as not to lose her HUSKY health insurance to the state.
“At $16.25 an hour, I can’t afford to buy my own health insurance, and I can’t roll the dice without coverage, with my asthma and other conditions that I have,” she said. Baily added that she caught COVID-19 in December and without paid sick leave, she lost nearly $600. “I had to borrow money from my son, just to pay the rent. It’s sad.”
The salary for most PCAs is $16.25, said Rob Baril, president of SEIU District 1199 New England. The union is asking Governor Ned Lamont to sign a contract for PCAs with paid sick leave, health insurance and retirement benefits, and for the legislature to approve a better contract.
Personal care assistants, union officials and state lawmakers gathered in a virtual press conference on Wednesday to demand those benefits. In December, home care workers and their clients demonstrated outside Lamont’s home.
Baril said the last contract expired last spring, but he was not free to share details about the current status of union negotiations.
The union also shared the results of a recent survey on Wednesday to which 760 PCAs responded. Of those surveyed, 32% said they had been behind on rent or mortgage payments in the past year, 37% rely on food stamps, 50% have taken unpaid days off in the past year. six months due to illness or quarantine, 55% rely on HUSKY health insurance, 12% are completely uninsured, and 26% have unpaid medical debt.
“You work hard, and not having basic health care is just unconscionable, so I think it’s incumbent on all of us to be your voice and fight for you on Capitol Hill. “said Sen. Derek Slap, D-West. Hartford. Sen. Jorge Cabrera, D-Hamden, noted that the state has record surpluses, the rainy day fund is “overflowing” and federal funds remain.
“Human nature being what it is, we can’t make real structural changes until there’s a crisis. Well, we have a crisis, ladies and gentlemen,” said Cabrera.
Other lawmakers who spoke were Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, and Rep. Jane Garibay, D-Windsor.
Personal care worker Jannell Roberts said her client had contracted COVID-19 and had it too, but couldn’t take time off work. She said of the man she is caring for: “If he has no one coming in, he can’t get out of bed, he can’t do anything anyone else would normally do.”
Faye Hargrove, a PCA from New Haven, said she got health insurance from Access Health, the state’s market, but the deductible is so high she owes thousands of dollars from her stay at the hospital with COVID-19 last year.
Meriden PCA Israel Alvarado said he had a heart attack last year and suffered from a pituitary tumor, but has no medical coverage and sometimes goes without his medication to be able to keep a roof over the heads of his family. “I kind of have to juggle my heart medication and my endocrine situation, my family, my food, my bills,” he said.
Santiago noted that the population is aging and needs people to provide care at home, but “if we don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of the other people you serve.”
Similarly, Garibay noted that these types of workers will take care of us at some point, “whether at home, in a nursing home, (or) in an assisted living facility, so I absolutely support better wages for our healthcare workers, and to give them healthcare and basic necessities.”