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DOL May Delay Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

September 30, 2014

The Obama administration may delay a federal rule change extending basic wage protections to home care workers.

On Sept. 26, MSNBC.com reported that the Department of Labor (DOL) was “carefully considering” letters from people who support the rule as well as from those who want the rule change to be delayed beyond its scheduled implementation date of January 1, 2015.

The MSNBC report prompted an outcry from supporters of fair pay for home care workers, who argue that the workforce has already waited far too long to be included under minimum wage and overtime pay rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

PHI joined dozens of advocacy organizations in signing a letter (pdf) to DOL Secretary Thomas Perez, sent on September 29:

The basic rights of two million home care workers — predominantly women and disproportionately women of color — once again hang in the balance, as the administration appears at risk of faltering in the face of opposition from some industry and Medicaid officials who continue to claim they are not prepared for the reforms.

The National Association of Home Care & Hospice, a lobbying group that represents the home care industry, and the National Association of Medicaid Directors have both put pressure on the DOL to delay the rule.

“Home care workers have been waiting for years for basic labor protections that most working Americans already have,” PHI Public Education and Media Director Deane Beebe was quoted saying In a September 29 Huffington Post article.

Additionally, the New York Times editorial board criticized any possible shift in the DOL’s position on the fair-pay rule.

“Further delay would only prolong the indefensible second-class status of home care workers,” a September 26 Times editorial said.

On September 30, MSNBC commentator Krystal Ball presented an editorial critizing the Obama administration for dragging its feet on the issue of fair pay for home care workers.

The next day, on her show Krystal Clear, Ball interviewed Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) — a veteran of PHI’s Come Care with Me Day campaign — about the crucial role home care workers play in the lives of elders and people with disabilities. Ball also interviewed Carmen Roberts, a home care aide with the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program in California.

The Kansas Health Institute also reported on the possibility of a delay in a September 29 article.

President Obama made public his support for the rule change at a December 2011 press conference at the White House.

Following an unusually protracted public-comment period, the rule change was finally announced in September 2013.

— by Matthew Ozga

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