Letter of support for Home Care Workers

See the PDF Version.

March 19, 2012

The Honorable Tim Walberg
Chairman, Workforce Protections Subcommittee
House Education and the Workforce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Lynn Woolsey
Ranking Member, Workforce Protections Subcommittee
House Education and the Workforce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Walberg and Ranking Member Woolsey:

The undersigned organizations support the Department of Labor (DOL) for revising the rules (RIN 1235-AA05) on the "companionship exemption" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which currently denies the direct care workforce basic federal wage-and-hour protections.

This workforce provides daily supports and services to older Americans and individuals with disabilities who need assistance with personal care and activities of daily living. The work that home care workers and personal care attendants do is vitally important to the health, independence, and dignity of consumers who rely on paid services in their homes. Unfortunately, because of the current DOL regulations, over 1.7 million home care workers are not ensured minimum wage or overtime pay. As a result, wages for this workforce are depressed, earning them low compensation, often for long hours of work. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour but one quarter of personal care aides earn less than $6.59 per hour and one quarter of home health aides earn less than $7.21 per hour. Nationwide, one out of every 12 low-wage workers is a direct care worker, and typical of a low-wage workforce, these home care workers are more likely to be uninsured, and nearly half receive public benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps.

During this economic recovery, we need to implement federal regulatory policies that fight poverty and promote access to quality care and the growth of quality jobs. The current DOL regulations broadly exempt this whole workforce. Such a sweeping policy is unsound, unfair, and undermines the economic recovery and our nation's goals for quality long-term care. Extending basic minimum wage and overtime protections to most home care workers will improve the stability of our home care workforce and encourage growth in jobs that cannot be outsourced. Reducing turnover in this workforce will improve access to and quality of these much-needed services.

The work done by these home care workers and personal care attendants affirms the values of dignity and respect we have for our aging citizens and individuals with disabilities. It is time that we value this workforce, too. Now is not the time to delay regulations that would provide them with a small measure of respect - the protection of federal wage-and-hour rules.

We oppose efforts to delay issuing the final rule and we support increasing resources to expand in-home supports and services. Our nation faces many challenges to allow consumers and home care workers to live with dignity, respect and independence but the solution to providing these needed services is not to deny paid caregivers federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

See the PDF Version for the List of Signers.

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