Mayor Walsh, don’t ticket home care aides
Give them access to residential parking passes
CHANCES ARE THAT SOMEONE YOU KNOW either needs in-home care now, or will in the future. As the older adult population in Massachusetts continues to grow, many of our relatives, friends, and neighbors may find that they need extra support with daily activities in order to stay in their homes. The home care aide workforce helps fill the gap by providing crucial support that allows older adults and people with disabilities to continue to live in their own homes. But home care aides in Boston struggle with a simple yet frustrating challenge: a scarcity of parking spaces near their clients’ homes. That’s why, as a group of social work graduate students, we are advocating for Boston city government to implement a parking permit program for home care aides that will help them focus on their job of caring for older adults.
Most home care agencies require workers to drive to their client’s residence, since home care aides are often responsible for grocery shopping or picking up medications from the pharmacy. As many of us know firsthand, finding a legal parking space in Boston can be challenging and time-consuming. Many home care aides receive parking fines or even have their car towed for parking in residential spots without a permit. These problems are likely to be exacerbated by Mayor Marty Walsh’s announcement on April 2 of proposed increases to parking fines this summer. Parking tickets for unauthorized parking in a resident parking area will surge from $40 to $60 per infraction. These changes could substantially harm the workers who provide care for some of Boston’s most vulnerable residents.
In-home care is one of the fastest growing industries in Massachusetts and currently there are not enough workers to meet the rising demand. Despite their important role in helping care for our loved ones, home care aides face many financial hardships. They are one of the lowest paid workforces in Massachusetts, averaging less than $14 an hour. Low wages, lack of benefits, and out-of-pocket job expenses like parking tickets contribute to high turnover in the profession. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2017 the number of older adults in Massachusetts who had their services suspended because home care agencies could not provide care increased by 222 percent, according to home care agencies. There are currently 12,448 older adults in Massachusetts who qualify but cannot find a home care worker. If bold actions aren’t taken to improve retention, the home care crisis facing Massachusetts is only going to worsen in the coming years. In Boston, estimates show there will be 130,000 older adult residents by 2030, nearly 20 percent of the city’s population.
Parking tickets are a small percentage of the city’s overall revenue, while the benefits for home care aides and those who rely on their services would be substantial. In his proposal to raise parking fines, Walsh argued that increased revenue from parking tickets will fund needed improvements to transportation across Boston. This is a worthy goal, but transportation improvements should not be funded by low-income home care workers who provide critical care to our loved ones.Members of city government, including City Councilor Josh Zakim as well as staff at the Elderly and Disability Commissions, have recognized the problem and are committed to finding a solution. We urge members of Boston city government to continue to work together to solve the parking problems for home care aides. Our proposal is for the city to implement a program that allows a consumer of in-home care services to apply for a residential parking permit for their home care aide. Such a program would demonstrate that Boston is committed to supporting a more robust in-home care workforce that is better able to meet rising demand. Now is the time for action, before parking tickets increase, home care aides are forced into even greater financial hardship, and more older adults are unable to receive the in-home care they desperately need.
Sarah Gross, Allison Hesketh, Jonathan Kolodziej, Anastasia Spratley, and Madison Tallant are students studying under Westy Egmont, an associate professor at the Boston College School of Social Work.