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My husband and I tried as hard as we could to keep our family in West Virginia. We had fallen in love with our home at the foot of the Shenandoah Valley in Jefferson County.

But I would have lost my job if we did not move. That’s because it was almost impossible to get the health care our 12-year-old son needed in West Virginia.

In 2004, we moved from Virginia to West Virginia to buy our first home and start our life together. It had a more-affordable housing market at the time, and a lower cost of living. In 2008, our son Ethan was born, and his health became our top priority. Ethan was born with a severe neuromuscular disorder. He has to be with someone medically trained 24/7. If we do not have a home caregiver, Ethan’s care falls to me and my husband.

For the next 10 years, we were lucky to find home health care for Ethan. But, in 2018, the shortage of home health workers worsened. The agency we’d been working with dropped our case because it no longer could staff us. Caregivers were leaving the profession because home health just does not pay enough and does not provide good benefits.

It was up to me to take care of Ethan at that point. I had to take medical leave from my job as a high school teacher. I did that for about six weeks, until my Family and Medical Leave Act benefit ran out. I lost almost two months of income while staying home to care for my son.

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Senate will decide whether to invest in home care. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., holds a deciding vote. He must recognize just how much his state needs this.

The home care industry is underfunded and significantly understaffed. Home health care workers are paid less than $20,000 a year, and very few have benefits like health insurance. And they sometimes do not have the training to meet the complex health needs of their patients.

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In 2018, I had no more leave to take off from work, and neither did my husband. I certainly could not quit my job altogether. We were out of options. Our only solution was to move back to Virginia.

To be fair, West Virginia is not the only state with a shortage of home care workers. The industry is crumbling nationwide. Since moving back to Virginia a year and a half ago, we had only one care worker assigned to us, and she was stretched thin between families. My husband and I got help only about 20% of the time we requested.

Taking care of Ethan is an unpaid job on top of our full-time jobs. My husband is a social worker, and he needs to physically be at work. I need to be in the classroom, but, if a care worker calls out sick, I have to be home with Ethan. My husband and I want to be able to provide for our child without government assistance, but how much longer can I do this without losing my job and becoming dependent on the state for income?

Ethan has a tracheotomy, but he sings right over it. He learned on YouTube how to play the ukulele and he joined a virtual choir. He loves car trips and exploring the outdoors. I love my child, and I would do anything for him, but I do not know how much longer I can be his unpaid caregiver.

Families like mine are getting burned out by the home care worker shortage. Giving the amount of care needed takes a physical and emotional toll. You expect to care for a newborn 24/7. It is different when you do it for 12, 20 or 50 years.

The Better Care Better Jobs Act would improve the pay, benefits and training of professional caregivers. This would create new jobs in Virginia and West Virginia. The bill would help families like mine go to work knowing that our loved ones are safe.

I know from experience how dire the shortage of caregivers is in West Virginia, and how much that can affect the jobs and health of working families. I hope Manchin chooses to invest in the care economy for the state where my family had hoped to build its life.

Christy Judd is a high school teacher who lives with her husband and son in Winchester, Virginia.

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