Aug 22 2021
Surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Range on one side and the San Juan Mountains on the other, the San Luis Valley is rich in history, agriculture and people. I live and work here, and as a direct assistant I have taken care of many of my neighbors who live in this area.
I help people with activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and cooking. My clients depend on me for care and companionship, and I provide them with the support they need to live good lives and remain independent.
Caregivers are hard to find in the San Luis Valley, which means I always stay busy. But the valley is vast, with houses and people scattered all over the place, and it is often not easy to reach my clients.
In the past eight years of providing home care services, I have driven through three cars due to the wear and tear associated with long trips. Despite the high need for our services, home helpers earn low wages and we don’t have access to perks like mileage reimbursement, so it’s hard to save enough for a good car that will last.
Although I was fortunate enough to keep my job during the pandemic, it meant I was putting my family and my health at risk every day. I was forced to make the impossible choice to go to work or risk not being able to pay my bills.
This is why I was hopeful when I learned that Congress had introduced the Better Care Act, the Better Jobs Act, the first step in making President Biden’s care plan a reality, by investing $ 400 billion. dollars in essential health care infrastructure.
This direct investment would lead to more good union jobs in the San Luis Valley and accessible and affordable home care for all families – so that our parents, grandparents and people with disabilities can access high quality care and live at home with dignity. Investing in caregivers means building thriving and resilient communities. Throughout the pandemic, it has become more evident than ever that without my care, my clients are losing an important part of their lives: being part of our community.
The Better Care Act, Better Jobs would transform this industry, turning home care jobs into good middle class jobs and giving workers a free and fair choice to join a union. For too long, caregivers – the majority of whom are women, mostly women of color – have been underestimated, underpaid and neglected. We need a seat at the table to stand up for each other, our customers and all of Colorado’s communities.
In my opinion, caregivers would be better at our job, and more people would want to do this job, if we got a living wage and got benefits like paid time off, sick time and health care. More than half of all home care workers in Colorado are forced to depend on some form of government assistance and more than a third depend on Medicaid. It can be difficult to take care of others when you can barely take care of yourself.
Our leaders in Congress must take bold and decisive action to invest in caregivers and our lives. The first step is to pass the Better Care, Better Jobs law. We thank Senator Michael Bennet for co-sponsoring the bill and urge Senator John Hickenlooper to sign without delay.
Social workers like me provide a vital service to the most vulnerable members of our community. It is time for us to be valued, respected and sit down at the table to ensure that we can continue to provide quality care to our clients without sacrificing our own health or our families in the process.
Chandra Campos has been a home care provider for eight years and an executive member of Colorado Care Workers Unite. His column comes from The Colorado sun, a non-partisan, reader-backed news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. For more information, visit coloradosun.com.