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-care worker, I’ve taken care of many of my neighbors who call this area home.
I help people with activities of daily living, such as dressing themselves, bathing, or cooking. My clients depend on me for care and companionship, and I provide the support they need to live a good life and remain independent.
Caregivers are hard to come by in the San Luis Valley, which means I always stay busy. But the Valley is large, with houses and people scattered throughout, and often getting to my clients is not easy.
During the past eight years that I’ve provided home-care services, I’ve gone through three cars due to the wear and tear associated with traveling long distances between my clients. Despite the high need for our services, home-care workers earn low wages, and we don’t have access to benefits like mileage reimbursement, so it’s hard to save up enough for a good car that will last.
While I was lucky to keep my job during the pandemic, it meant I was putting my family and my health at risk each day. I was forced to make the impossible choice of going to work or risking being unable to pay my bills.
That’s why I felt hopeful when I learned that Congress had introduced the Better Care, Better Jobs Act, the first step in making President Biden’s care plan a reality, investing $400 billion in essential-care infrastructure.
This direct investment would lead to more good, union jobs in the San Luis Valley and to accessible and affordable home care for all families — so our parents, grandparents, and people with disabilities can access high-quality care and live at home with dignity. Investing in caregivers means creating thriving, resilient communities. Throughout the pandemic, it has been more apparent than ever that without my care, my clients lose out on an important part of life: being part of our community.
The Better Care, Better Jobs Act would transform this industry, turning home care jobs into good middle-class jobs and giving workers the free and fair choice to join a union. For too long, care workers — the majority of whom are women, mostly women of color — have been undervalued, underpaid, and overlooked. We need a seat at the table to advocate for each other, our clients, and all Colorado communities.
The way I see it, caregivers would be better at our jobs, and more people would want to do this work, if we were paid a liveable wage and had benefits such as paid time off, sick leave, and health care. More than half of all home-care workers in Colorado are forced to rely on some form of public assistance, and more than one-third rely on Medicaid. It can be hard to take care of others when you barely can take care of yourself.
Our leaders in Congress must take bold, decisive action to invest in care workers and our lives. The first step is passing the Better Care, Better Jobs Act. We appreciate Sen. Bennet co-sponsoring the bill, and we urge Sen. Hickenlooper to sign on without delay.
Care workers like me provide a vital service to our most vulnerable community members. It’s time for us to be valued, respected, and provided a seat at the table to ensure we can continue providing quality care to our clients without sacrificing our own health or families in the process.
Chandra Campos is a home care provider of eight years in the San Luis Valley, and a member leader of Colorado Care Workers Unite