From NYCHA to Home Health Aides

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If Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Williamsburg) gets her way, some NYCHA residents might be able to lend seniors a helping hand, and get paid for it.

Earlier this month, at the Bushwick Senior Center (50 Humboldt Street, Williamsburg), Velazquez introduced a new bill in Congress, the “Together We Care Act of 2009” which would help public housing residents receive training and certification for work in the home healthcare industry.

“Home care is a profession that will be in high demand for years to come and this legislation will offer hard-working public housing residents with the tools they need to enter this field.By training New Yorkers in a certified trade, we can help turn the local economy around,” Velázquez said.

According to recent demographic trends, home care profession is expected to grow strongly in the coming years. In twenty years, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older. Industry experts expect the field will expand by 51 percent over the next ten years, though health care reform in Washington and state budget cuts to Medicare could change those forecasts.

In spite of the changing budgetary climate in Washington and Albany, Velazquez is advancing her bill to help older Americans live independently, as an alternative to more expensive nursing home care, which can be more than double that of home health care.

Velazquez’s office is predicting the creation of 6,000 jobs citywide that would directly impact the quality of life of seniors and disabled public housing tenants.

“More than one-third of our City’s public housing households are headed by an elderly person, and the need for caring, competent aides is increasing rapidly.This legislation will help keep families together and strengthen the bonds between neighbors,” Velázquez said.

NYCHA representatives enthusiastically embraced the bill, saying they were “proud to partner with the Congresswo­man” in this “pioneering initiative.”

“This is a win-win for public housing residents because it will create job opportunities for people in need of employment and it will provide much needed services for our senior population,” said Heidi Morales, a spokesperson for NYCHA.

This past week, Council member Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg) sponsored a resolution in City Council to support Velazquez’s bill.

Reyna, who studied to be a nurse before pursuing a career in politics, believes that the bill will help the North Brooklyn community she and Velazquez represent reach two goals: create new jobs for home attendants and increase the quality of care for elderly public housing residents.

“This is an innovative opportunity to begin to address the naturally occurring retirement communities in public housing and addressing their fragile populations in need of so much service,” said Reyna.

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