Sunday, September 26, 2010

As Gas Prices Soar, Elderly Face Cuts in Aid -

My friend Harriet pointed out this good article from the 2008 New York Times that shows how precarious our safety net is, and how rising gas prices were affecting services for the elderly, as well as working conditions for home health aides and volunteers.

As Gas Prices Soar, Elderly Face Cuts in Aid -
July 5, 2008

"...Faced with soaring gasoline prices, agencies around the country that provide services to the elderly say they are having to cut back on programs like Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance and home care, especially in rural areas that depend on volunteers who provide their own gas. In a recent survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, more than half said they had already cut back on programs because of gas costs, and 90 percent said they expected to make cuts in the 2009 fiscal year."

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Home Health Aide Blasts Long Hours, Low Wages, and Elusive Benefits

Personal Story of a Home Health Aide

Long Hours, Low Wages and Inadequate Benefits Lead to "Poverty Merry-Go-Round" and "Psychological and Social Isolation”

We recently received a powerful personal essay written by an anonymous home health aide working in the northeastern region of the United States.  Because she wants to keep her job, she asked that her identity be kept confidential.

While this dedicated home health care aide finds her work to help disabled and elderly patients "gratifying and rewarding," she also feels isolated and impoversished by the tough physical and emotional requirements of the job, which involves long hours, low wages and phantom benefits with high-cost sharing requirements. 

Unpredictable hours leave the aide in a precarious financial position, making it hard to consistently afford monthly bills for rent, food and recurring expenses like car insurance. 

At the time she wrote the essay, she had recently bounced several checks -- and was immediately socked by her bank with nearly $200 in overdraft fees.

According to her essay:

"...A Home Health Aide who is a single person has to work 50+ hours a week in order to make a paycheck that they can pay their living expenses with. Starting pay is about $10 an hour and raises are between 3 and 6% a year, if you are lucky. Thus, it is extremely difficult to maintain a house and the car that gets you where you need to go without earning at least $500 a week take home pay..."

"Although [healthcare] benefits are offered by both of the employers that I work for, affording them is next to impossible. That is because paying for healthcare benefits would mean spending nearly one entire paycheck each month.  For someone who is married, or has another income to rely on, that works, but for a single Home Health Aide who cannot rely on making the $2000 a month, to afford the costs of living because their schedule can change on any given day leaving them with few, or no work hours for a week, or more, well, there is the gliche.  ($2,000 monthly expense estimate is based on the cost of living in the region I currently reside in)."

"There have been days when I have had to bring a bologna sandwich with mustard on it to work and have not had money to even buy a piece fruit or a drink. So I drink the best drink of all -- water. Often, my problems, due to low pay, leave me feeling isolated, like many of the clients I care for..." 

"Certainly, the poverty I am being subjected to is not for lack of trying. I often feel as though I am riding a merry-go-round as those who have problems with addiction ride, since low wages force me to seemingly work more than I rest, in order to barely eek out a living. But why must I carry this feeling when what I do is so needed by others and is critically important to those who need the help of a Home Health Aide?"

She concludes the rank-and-file worker is not respected, unlike the CEOs who are earning "gobs of money."  She also argues that home health care jobs, as they are currently designed, are unsuitable for single women "with normal desires."  Married couples with two incomes may be in a somewhat better position for to cope with the conditions of unpredictable hours and poor wages for one household member, but single people have no other wage earner in the household to absorb the economic strain.

Many women workers in the home health care and nursing industries face similar unfair working conditions. The story raises the question whether the owners of home health companies are exploiting women in general and single women in particular, who can’t afford to live on the low wages that are paid, and are unable to pay into health insurance or 401-K retirement plans with high cost-sharing requirements.

We thank this hard-working and dedicated worker for sharing her personal story. It is a powerful reminder that all jobs should pay decent wages and offer good benefits, including health care, paid vacation and a pension or retirement plan.

Drive for Decent Work and the National Jobs for All Coalition encourages other workers to share their personal stories about unemployment and inadequate wages and benefits. Please send your story to: cbell [at]

To read the full story, click here

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

$50 billion Obama Infrastructure plan

Paul Krugman
September 7, 2010, 5:30 AM


Some bleary-eyed thoughts from Japan on the reported administration proposal for $50 billion in new spending:
1. It’s a good idea
2. It’s much too small
3. It won’t pass anyway — which makes you wonder why the administration didn’t propose a bigger plan, so as to at least make the point that the other party is standing in the way of much needed repair to our roads, ports, sewers, and more– not to mention creating jobs. Once again, they’re striking right at the capillaries.

"...[T]here’s a pretty good argument to be made that we are, in fact, starved for public goods in this country, so that it would actually be a good idea to shift some resources to public goods production even if we were at full employment; in that case, we should definitely give priority to public goods when trying to put unemployed resources to work."

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