Bennet Joins “Care is Essential” Town Hall with SEIU Local 105 and Colorado Care Workers Unite in Denver

SEIU Reports $400 Billion Investment in Home Care Would Create 13,500 Jobs in Colorado

Photos from the event are available HERE

Denver –– Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined a “Care is Essential” town hall with SEIU Local 105 and Colorado Care Workers Unite (CCWU) in Denver focused on care workers’ rights and growing the care economy. During the town hall, Bennet heard from providers and consumers of home health care about the importance of advancing President Biden’s proposal to invest $400 billion in home and community-based services in the Build Back Better budget.

“Our home care workers provide vital services to families, seniors, and people living with disabilities in our communities, but over half of them rely on public assistance to live,” said Bennet. “Caregivers, who are largely women of color and immigrants, deserve to earn a living wage, receive benefits, and be treated like the essential workers they are. It’s time to transform low-paying caregiver jobs into middle-class, high-quality, good-paying jobs across the country.” 

“About 10% of Coloradans have a disability and 25% will have one in their lifetime. Having a disability often means that we need human assistance to live our lives and to enjoy what are considered rights of all Americans such as the right to life and liberty,” said Julie Reiskin, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Executive Director. “The way we pay for these services shows the societal value we have. People that do this work deserve raises for the cost of living and merit and our budgets must include funds for paid time off—not only for COVID but for all needs.”

"Home care services are fundamental health care services that allow older adults and people living with disabilities to live and function in their home. The Build Back Better Plan is an opportunity to expand these vital services and invest in-home care workers, predominantly women of color, who have been underpaid and undervalued for far too long and have been at particular risk during this pandemic,” said Adam Fox, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative Deputy Director.

"With low wages, a lack of training, and limited leave, the care workers we depend on to take care of our elderly and persons with disabilities in Colorado, are in crisis,” said Michael Bardo, a home care worker for persons with disabilities in Denver and a member of Colorado Care Workers Unite. “We thank Senator Bennet for his commitment to investing in the care economy. We must strive to turn these jobs into good union jobs that pay a livable wage, with good benefits, and provide a seat at the table so that we can win the dignity and respect we deserve. This is about all of us building a better future for the essential workers who care for our loved ones, and ensuring that everyone can access quality, dependable care.”

SEIU reports a $400 billion investment in home care is expected to create 13,500 jobs in Colorado. As of 2018, 36,820 individuals make up Colorado’s home care workforce, which is made up of 87% women. Over 30% of home care workers in Colorado are people of color, and 12% are immigrants. Home care workers in Colorado make a median wage of $12.12 which, when adjusted for inflation, shows a 2.7% decline over the period from 2009-2018. Nearly half of home care workers in Colorado are below 200% of the poverty level and 54% of home care workers in Colorado receive some form of public assistance.

In June, Bennet introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act to make a historic investment in-home and community-based services by strengthening and expanding access to quality home care services and lifting up the caregiving workforce that provides them.

Bennet is working to include the proposal in the Build Back Better budget.

The Better Care Better Jobs Act would:  

  • Enhance Medicaid funding for HCBS in states that:
    • Strengthen and expand access to HCBS by expanding financial eligibility criteria for HCBS to federal limits; requiring coverage for personal care services; expanding supports for family caregivers; adopting programs that help people navigate enrollment and eligibility; expanding access to behavioral health care; improving coordination with housing, transportation, and employment supports; and developing or improving programs to allow working people with disabilities to access HCBS.
    • Strengthen and expand the HCBS workforce by addressing HCBS payment rates to promote recruitment and retention of direct care workers; regularly updating HCBS payment rates with public input; passing rate increases through to direct care workers to increase wages, and updating and developing training opportunities for this workforce as well as family caregivers.
    • Show improvement over time by demonstrating improved availability of services; reduced disparities in accessing and using HCBS; evidence of competitive wages and benefits for workers; and increases in HCBS spending. 
    • Comply with a strong maintenance of effort for HCBS eligibility and benefit standards to ensure that additional federal dollars go towards growing and improving HCBS programs.
  • Encourage innovative models that benefit direct care workers and care recipients. Funding would support quality and accountability at the federal and state level, including by facilitating state planning for implementation.