Advocates rally for better wages for home health care workers in New York

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UNION SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) -- New York officials and advocates gathered in Manhattan on Tuesday to rally for raising wages for home health care workers and help eliminate the current shortage.

"I've had two strokes, two heart attacks," Loretta Copeland said. "I've had cancer three times. I can't afford to be sick."

Copeland is 81 and she depends on her home health care worker a lot. It gives her independence since she lives alone in East Harlem and keeps her from having to go to a nursing home.

"I've been to nursing homes before and I saw how the people are so lifeless, in the hallways, not in their rooms," Copeland said. "I don't ever want to live like that."

Advocates gathered in Union Square on Tuesday to rally for home health workers who on average make $12.50 an hour.

In New York, 91% are female and 77% are people of color. Fifty-seven percent of them are on some kind of public assistance.

"They are caring for others while they then have to then turn to programs like SNAP and Medicaid to get care for themselves," said NY Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas. "Is that alright? No."

State lawmakers are now considering a bill to boost the pay of home care workers. It would push their average salary in New York from $22,000 a year to about $35,000.

"Every elected official that I know of talks about income inequality, everyone that I know talks about the feminization of poverty," Attorney General Letitia James said. "Everyone talks about lifting up all boats-well now is your time to show it."

For people like Copeland, the proposal is a no-brainer to pay her home care worker more.

"And they should be getting more pay, they should get regular full-time pay with benefits really," Copeland said.

The bill would cost the state about $4 billion a year-but advocates point out it would help home care workers so much that they would no longer need public assistance.

They're hoping Gov. Kathy Hochul will include it in her budget to be presented early next year.

Watch the segment on ABC News, Channel 7