Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Overtime Pay for Home Care ... What's Your State Doing?

Green highlighter highlighting the word advocacy
A message for readers in the USA ... though others may find it interesting:

Is your state ready to start paying personal care aides overtime, starting January 1? How will your state's home care programs meet the new Federal overtime requirements? Will they fund the higher cost to maintain current hours of service for everyone? Or, will they try to shave and cut hours of care to stay within existing budgets?

Disability advocates tried very hard to get the new Federal overtime regulations for home care workers postponed, so that states could adjust and ensure that services to disabled people aren't disrupted. However, time has run out. Now all states need to look at how they will meet the new requirements while avoiding unintended, but very possible, negative outchomes such as:
  • Reduced hours of services to disabled people, even though their needs haven't changed.
  • Fewer people approved to receive home care.
  • Disabled people forced by reduced care to move back into institutional settings, or delay returning home from them.
  • Fewer hours and fewer overall job opportunities for home care workers.
Let's be clear about this. If states do adjust their budgets to accommodate paying home care workers overtime, without reducing services, that could be a big win for everyone. Disabled people who rely on home care generally support their aides being paid better. What we are worried about are the unintended consequences of adding a higher pay requirement to a program that relatively few people in government fully understand. They mean well, but it seems like they just don't get how the economics of home care, which is paid for mainly by state governments which each decide their own policies and budgets. For the most part, home care recipients have no ability to simply decide to pay their workers higher wages or overtime. It isn't their money. It's mostly the states'. Now, all 50 of them need to pass legislation to meet the requirement without harming disabled people or their home care workers.

That's a tall order, politically, and like it or not, it puts disabled people in the middle, in a situation where doing what many would consider "the right thing" ... paying home care workers overtime as other employees are paid ... isn't really up to them, but where they could easily bear the brunt of the decision either way.

Anyway, if you care about home care and its vital role in supporting independence for people with significant disabilities, find out who's working on this in your state right now and ask what you can do to help.