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Coronavirus hero: UDW member procures and distributes PPE to 200+ IHSS providers in Southern California

Activist, mother, caregiver, hero—Mary Courtney-Sheldon is one of the half million frontline home care workers in California keeping seniors and people with disabilities safe from COVID-19.

An IHSS provider for her adult son with autism in Poway, Mary, like many home care providers, left a well-paying career to become her son’s caregiver through IHSS when it became clear that his only other choice was to leave home for a long-term care facility.

“It doesn’t make any sense, we’re literally saving the state $27,000 a month by providing him with the care he needs at home, and yet I make basically minimum wage,” she said. (IHSS providers in San Diego County make just $13.50 per hour.)

To add insult to injury, Mary has been using her paltry wages to pay for her own masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial hand soap, and medical-grade disinfectants – all the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that frontline caregivers need to keep their clients safe from COVID-19.

But Mary hasn’t just secured PPE for herself, she’s gone above and beyond; procuring thousands of dollars worth of supplies and distributing them to more than 200 home care providers in San Diego, Orange, Imperial, and Riverside counties.

“The county should be doing this, the Public Authority should be making sure we have the supplies we need,” she said. “Not just the supplies we need once our client contracts COVID-19, but the supplies we need to prevent that from happening in the first place.”

Earlier this month Governor Gavin Newsom called for PPE to be distributed to IHSS providers statewide after speaking with UDW member Carnella Marks of Butte County and learning of the difficulties providers are facing during this unprecedented crisis. Governor Newsom knows we are essential, frontline workers – but we need to make sure that this is understood by everyone, not just those at the top.

Mary isn’t able to purchase supplies for everyone, and she shouldn’t have to. That’s why UDW is doing what we can to find, purchase, and distribute supplies to home care workers in need – and to encourage the counties to do the same.

Are you a home care provider in need of PPE or help related to COVID-19? Call us at 1-800-621-5016.

To learn more about Mary, watch her interview with CBS 8 here. For basic coronavirus resources, check out