Dozens of New York state lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate this week urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Health to use COVID-19 relief money to boost pay for home care workers. 

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Rachel May and Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, called on the state to use most of the $1.6 billion set aside for home and community-based services for the plan. 

"The low wages paid to this skilled workforce do not reflect the vital and difficult work they perform and perpetuates their poverty," the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. "To move forward with an equity agenda, New York must pay these workers at a level that respects the work they perform." 

The letter outlined the benefits of boosting pay, including qualifying for a higher federal match as well as aiding a workforce that includes women and people of color. 

Supporters of the move pointed to the state's home care workforce shortage, linking it to the low pay these workers receive. Older New Yorkers who cannot find home care workers often turn to living in nursing homes as a result.