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Film screening highlights need to improve home care workers’ wages and working conditions

September 19, 2023

On September 12, the Public Justice Center co-sponsored a screening of Care, a powerful documentary about home care workers, those they care for, and the desperate need to improve home care jobs. Before the screening, Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee in the Maryland House of Delegates, gave a compelling keynote address, grounded in her own experience providing care for her stepfather. She discussed how home care workers provide vital care that allows people to stay in their homes as they age or navigate life with a disability. But the low pay, challenging work, and long hours make it hard for workers to sustain their families, and these conditions contribute to a growing shortage of workers available to provide care for an aging population. Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker spoke about similar themes, including his experience caring for his wife as she suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Following the film, PJC attorney David Rodwin facilitated a panel discussion focused on addressing the shortage of home care workers by making Maryland’s home care jobs better, high-paying jobs. Panelists included Charles Werrel (a veteran and home care recipient), Cynthia Neely (a home care aide who provides care to Mr. Werrel), Jenna Crawley (Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging) and Delegate Ashanti Martinez (who serves on the Health and Government Operations Committee and represents the Prince George’s County district where the event was held). Each panelist spoke from their experience. Mr. Werrel noted the positive difference that Ms. Neely has had on his life and said it isn’t right that someone who does such important work is paid so little. Ms. Neely talked about the passion she has for caregiving work and the challenges she faces in order to stay in a job she loves. She described that there are some days she has to take a bus to the light rail to a Lyft or Uber just to get to work, leaving her with next to nothing in take-home pay. Deputy Secretary Crawley spoke about the need for a comprehensive, multi-sector plan to make sure that Maryland can provide high quality care jobs to meet the state’s growing need for them. Delegate Martinez spoke about his family’s positive experience with home care workers and how those workers became like family.

The event concluded with a call to join the Caring Across Maryland coalition in advocating to improve home care workers’ wages and working conditions. The coalition’s priorities include legislation ensuring that home care workers employed by home care agencies to provide care funded by Medicaid are properly classified as employees and not misclassified as independent contractors; improving the state’s collection, analysis, and publication of basic data on this workforce, such as workers’ average pay rates; improving transparency in ownership of nursing facilities; and increasing workers’ pay. You can learn more about Caring Across Maryland and become a member at

Thanks to 1199SEIU for organizing the event and Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville for providing the space.