0 29 shares Smoothing the way for better pay for Ohio's home-care workforce: Wendy Patton, Policy Matters Ohio
Posted June 05, 2016 in Selected Press
Guest columnist Wendy Patton is a Senior Project Director with Policy Matters Ohio, a not-for-profit, non-partisan research organization with a mission of contributing to a more vibrant, equitable, inclusive and sustainable Ohio.
Demand for home care is growing rapidly, yet until recently the nation's 2 million-plus home-care workers did not have wage and hour protections like the rest of America's workforce. New federal rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) change that. The much-needed rules protect home-care workers with a wage floor, time sheets and overtime pay - steps that will help stabilize the workforce and improve quality of care.
In Ohio, home-care workers typically get at least minimum wage, but many are not paid for travel time between clients and don't get overtime for long hours worked. Ohio is implementing the new rules, but there have been glitches along the way and there's still a lot of room for progress.
Ohio's 86,000 personal-care and home-health workers do important work, taking care of our disabled and elderly. They are underpaid for demanding jobs that often require training and even certification: the median wage of a home-care worker is $9.85 an hour and a personal care attendant, $9.67 an hour. Even at 40 hours per week, a home-care worker with one child lives near the poverty level.
This is one of Ohio's fastest-growing jobs. It is a largely a public service job, financed primarily by Medicaid and Medicare. Few states fund a living wage for home-care workers. Until the new rules were put in place, many states did not even pay them minimum wage.
In Ohio, the majority of these workers are employed by agencies, which are responsible for implementing the new rules. However, thousands also work as "independent providers," employed by the person receiving the care but paid by the state. Ohio is responsible for implementing the federal rules for independent providers.
Last year, as lawsuits over the new labor rules were resolved and implementation appeared imminent, Ohio officials considered eliminating independent providers. They initially cited fraud and abuse as the reason, but rather quickly turned around and admitted the real reason was cost. Many home-care workers were angered by the accusation of corruption and what was widely seen as efforts to avoid the cost of fair labor practices.
Taking care of vulnerable Ohioans is an essential public service that is badly needed and widely supported. To regain the trust of home-care workers, the clients they serve and the general public, the state must do a better job of ensuring the new federal rules are properly implemented and enforced. The state should collect data on home-care workers' hours and travel time, budget for costs, and develop oversight and enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair pay and accurate timekeeping.
Lawmakers should also raise wages. Workers in the gigantic field of home health care earn too little because legislators fail to appropriate funds to pay them a living wage. A wage increase would lower a shockingly high turnover rate, stabilize one of Ohio's fastest growing occupations and ensure competent care for our family members and neighbors.
Original Article: http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2016/06/s...