After four months of negotiations with the United Domestic Workers of America, the Board of Supervisors has approved a wage increase for in-home caregivers whose pay comes from a combination of federal, state, and county funding. Santa Barbara County is home to some 2,800 in-home caregivers, workers who provide assistance to 3,400 elderly individuals no longer able to live independently. The work is physically and emotionally taxing and provides the state with a financially attractive alternative to nursing homes, which are more expensive than allowing seniors to continue living in their own homes with the assistance of caregivers.
The wage increase will boost caregivers’ hourly wages from $12.10, just barely above minimum wage, to $13.77, beginning in February 2020. In January 2021, the wages will increase once more to $14.77 an hour. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) also includes an additional 20 cents per hour toward health-care services. At the November 18 meeting, the board also approved a resolution to recognize November as National Family Caregivers month. However, even with the boost to their incomes, $13.77 is substantially lower than the hourly wage necessary to meet cost-of-living expenses in the county. Many of the workers come from low-income backgrounds and are taking care of family members no longer capable of living by themselves. The services they provide have been lauded by the state as a financially savvy alternative to nursing homes, which could strain the state’s financial resources as a rising number of boomers transition into old age.