Denver –– Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined a “Care is Essential” town hall with SEIU Local 105 and Colorado Care Workers Unite to speak about care workers’ rights and growing the care economy in the state of Colorado.

During the town hall, Bennet listened to providers and consumers of home health care and their advocacy for President Joe Biden’s proposal to invest $400 billion into in-home and community-based care services in the Build Back Better budget.

Senator Bennet said, “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.” 

Julie Reiskin, executive director of Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, said, “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 is considered the rights of all Americans such as the right to life and liberty. 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.”

Service Employees International Union reports that $400 billion invested into home care would generate 13,500 jobs in Colorado. As of 2018, 36,820 individuals make up Colorado’s home care workforce, 87% of that number are women. Over 30% of home care workers in Colorado are people of color, and 12% are immigrants.

These workers make a median wage of $12.12 in Colorado which, after inflation is factored in, shows a 2.7% decline over the period from 2009 until 2018. Almost half of all Coloradan home care workers live below 200% of the poverty level while 54% of these individuals receive public assistance.

“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, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

In June of 2021, Senator Bennet introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act to invest in in-home and community-based services through strengthening quality home care services and advocating for the caregiving workforce.

The act would do as follows for Coloradans:

  • Enhance Medicaid funding for HCBS
  • Strengthen and expand the HCBS workforce
  • Show improvement over time by demonstrating improved availability of services
  • Comply with a strong maintenance of effort for HCBS eligibility and benefit standards
  • Encourage innovative models that benefit direct care workers and care recipients.

To read the Better Care, Better Jobs Act, visit the website here.