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Disability Caregivers Get Pay, Overtime Protections

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For the first time, in-home care workers who assist people with disabilities will soon be entitled to federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is approving a new rule ensuring that most home care workers are paid at least minimum wage.

The move updates a law dating back to 1974, which treats those who provide in-home assistance as “companions” — much like baby sitters — and does not grant such workers the same rights as other types of employees.

“For almost 40 years, direct care workers have been denied basic employment rights,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “A fair wage will further stabilize and professionalize this critical line of work, which of course will lead to better quality care.”

“This rule will present a win-win solution for both home care workers and the people for whom they are caring,” Perez said.

The change is estimated to affect nearly two million home care workers, an estimated 40 percent of whom currently rely on public assistance like Medicaid and food stamps because of the profession’s low pay.

The new rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in early October, but won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, officials said. Though rules are typically enacted within 60 days, they said the delay is intended to give states, families and other stakeholders time to adjust.

Once implemented, most home care workers must be paid minimum wage and compensated at time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours per week. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour.

The rule applies to home care workers employed by agencies or other third-parties as well as those who perform medically-related services that require training. However, workers who are paid by an individual or their family to provide fellowship and protection — keeping a person company or spending time engaging in hobbies, for example — will not be granted the new protections.

Labor Department officials said the change is a step in the right direction by professionalizing and giving dignity to a group of workers who are increasingly in demand as the population ages. What’s more, they said 15 states already provide wage and overtime protections of their own to these workers.

Critics from some disability advocacy groups, however, have argued that the change, which was initially proposed in 2011, could compromise home-based care, especially for people with disabilities who use Medicaid dollars to pay family members to assist them.

“We’re very concerned that this will mess with the continuity of care,” said Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living. “Medicaid isn’t going to pay for overtime. That’s going to mean people will have to bring a stranger into their house.”

However, Henry Claypool of the American Association of People With Disabilities said the new requirements will help chip away at Medicaid’s “institutional bias” by giving in-home care workers the same protections already enjoyed by those employed in institutional settings to perform similar tasks.

“It’s really just a simple matter of fairness,” Claypool said.

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Comments (12 Responses)

  1. Kelly Sanders, CNA LMT says:

    I am a person with a disability (TBI), I’m also a certified nurse assistant and work as a private in home caregiver for an elderly disabled person. I work about 24 hours a week for 10.00 an hour. Minimum wage would not cover my fair living expenses. Private home care does not credit my CNA license either with the necessary CEs I have to have annually.

  2. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow to Hernandez, WWII says:

    The news will not do nothing for my Daughter who is my caregiver.and quality of care is not taken care.

  3. M. Oliver says:

    Well, this article certainly provides one spin on this development!

    I wish I could share the enthusiasm that Sec. Perez and Mr. Claypool express in their quotes. For their words to become true, States will need to find and authorize significant additional general fund match for their Medicaid programs – something historically that has been all but impossible in many parts of this country the past several decades.

    To be sure, those who provide direct support services have been the other group of devalued and marginalized citizens who comprise the disability community. In Oregon and many other states, the move to deinstitutionalize individuals with I/DD has been done largely based on the availability of cheap labor provided by the private sector’s direct support staff. Compensation disparities between the private and public sector providers has been a significant problem and rallying cry for decades in the disability community.

    Nobody I know believes that direct support professionals have ever been fairly compensated for the truly difficult and important work they do. So, in that regard, any effort to enhance compensation and social status is welcomed. However, this change in CFR does little to move things forward without a concurrent enhancement in funding to pay for it.

    In contrast to Mr. Claypool’s position that this is simply “a matter of fairness,” I would assert that our country’s commitment ought to be to provide a wage and associated benefits that allows a family to live comfortably. This ought to be extended to anyone who chooses to pursue providing direct supports to people with disabilities – not simply minimum wage and overtime.

    In many ways, in the absence of funding to accomplish this and to prevent significant changes in the options for community-based supports that people now enjoy, one could view this development as little more than pandering to organized labor by the Administration and Sec. Perez.

    I hope that the future proves me wrong…

  4. HellOnWheelz says:

    And from the other side of the coin: my wife and I are both in wheelchairs and have “complex medical conditions”.

    I am still able to work fulltime and make too much money to have caregiver services subsidized. I also don’t make -enough- money to cover our living expenses, medical expenses, insurance AND pay someone hourly. Our arrangements with caregivers have been on a contract basis: so many of things that we cannot do in exchange a flat amount of money (and at hours that fit into the caregivers’ lives – such as random evenings or weekends). What this appears to mean is that we will no longer be able to make such arrangements – leaving us with less care and more complications to our already extremely complicated situation.

    Perhaps I should just give in, go on the dole and let taxpayers foot the bill for the whole mess?

  5. Rosella A. Alm says:

    The primary problem with this new law is that the person with the disability will be forced to hire new people to be caregivers, instead of the people that he or she knows and has relied on for months or years. Many if not most of the caregivers are family members, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. I know of a brother-in-law who is a caregiver and who works more than 40 hours a week taking care of his disabled family member.

    I feel sure that the state of California will not be willing to pay overtime for these people, and even though the law states that the person with the disability has the absolute right to choose his/her care provider, another person will be forced on them. Dark days ahead.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    If you are a family member, residing in the home of the disabled individual, you will likely be exempt from
    the overtime provision. In California, the Dept. of Social Services wrote to the Dept of Labor that they will
    limit the number of hours for IHSS providers to 40/week, thus saving countless dollars to be spent on other “worthwhile projects” –so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The unions are happy, looking at thousands of potential dues paying members because of the limits on overtime in Calif. I do take issue with the “soon be entitled to” in the article. At least a year before this takes effect, eh? But then again, if you care for a disabled person, time is just another dimension.

  7. Lisa Hills says:

    What are the overtime protections? My agency only has one caregiver for my son, so if I need her a few extra hours for something, I can’t have her because that would put her in to overtime, and the agency she works for won’t allow it. Seems like the answer would be to hire another caregiver, but they never have. So what about in the mean time? I just have to do without because they won’t hire another caregiver and won’t allow the one I have to have overtime.

  8. Denise says:

    This would be well and good if the state Medicaid programs would allow for overtime payment. Unfortunately, they do not. So, people who use Consumer Directed Personal Assistance will now have their care jeopardized. Fiscal intermediaries that pay personal assistance will not permit Consumers to have their employees work over 40 hours a week. That will mean more people coming into my house. That means more employees who call in sick, requiring me to find back up assistance. That means more people who have the security code to access my apartment, placing me at greater risk of burglary and theft.

    I support my personal assistants receiving a better wage. They are dedicated workers, and have to deal with my morning moods before the caffeine kicks in, and clean up bodily functions people don’t want to mention in “polite” conversation. Increase the ability for me to pay them a higher hourly rate – that would be better for me and thousands like me.

  9. Cam | Gainsborough Baths says:

    This is fantastic news! Alot of hard work went into securing that :)

  10. Deborah Hale says:

    Ok so there are people out there miking the system for medicaid and food stamps that is going to make it harder for others that choose to work extra hours not to be on the system….With that being said…I am an in home care giver myself….Since we were not paid over time we were allowed to work as many hours a week as we wanted….medicaid only pays agencies a certain amount no matter how much you work…so therefore the agency still made their money and we could work whatever hours we needed to meet our bills and needs….So I chose to work extra hours…However if they still pay the agency the same amount of money but we get paid time and a half on overtime that will force us to take less hours making the agency hire more people so they don’t have to pay overtime…I see that will force more people on assistance and have the families have to bring in more help which in some cases CHANGE is not a good thing to some individuals….NOT at all happy with this bill being passed….I will now be forced not to work with my individuals as I am now, plus take away money from my family….I always work 60-80 hours a week which helps being only two people in my two homes with the individual I serve…In that case the agency will have to hire another person to take that extra 40 hours a week and lower my pay check!!!!! Change is not always a good thing!!!!

  11. june says:

    A good plan BUT even the most devoted care givers cannot live forever. the need for well run group home facitities continues to be a pressing need.

  12. Linda Parker says:

    This new law is bad for thr elderly, developmentally disabled and their caregivers. I have been a caregiver for 11 years. I work with a developmentally disabled client. as a consequence of this new law my hours will be cut dramatically. my employer will not pay overtime. I work a weekend shift. True the wages low but I’ve work enough hours so it makes up the difference. Now I will lose those hours. my client and I have a good relationship he thinks of me as a mother. He will miss me and I will be forced to find another job because I live far away. The weekend shift was perfect I could spend the night get my hours in and make enough to support myself. I fear I will no longer be able to support myself when the new law takes effect.

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