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March 20, 2018; Patch

One of the things NPQ does in these newswires we send you each day is track trends in the various fields and across the sector. For the past week, NPQ has been following stories about problems in the home health care industry, reporting in one case about the closing of a program and in another about the closing of an agency. In each, the unworkable formula between Medicare-funded reimbursement rates and costs—including labor costs—is cited. Now, we see that so-called WARN notices are being issued elsewhere in the industry which includes nonprofit and for-profit companies.

WARN notices are issued when a large employer intends to close or lay off staff. In Colorado, one of these notices was filed on March 8th with the Colorado Dept. of Labor and Employment, announcing the fact that 67 people will lose their jobs by May when Colorado CovenantCare at Home closes. In New Jersey, a notice was issued warning that hundreds of employees at Personal-Touch Home Care in Bloomfield would be laid off in May as well, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Meanwhile, in New York City, there are 187,000 working home health aides; it is, in fact, the largest workforce for a single occupation in the city, and it is expected to grow at three times the overall job rate over the next six years. Providers everywhere struggle with serious workforce issues born of low wages, inadequate and erratic hours, and a relatively positive job market.

All these factors, of course, have inevitably led workers to organize. Just yesterday, the Connecticut General Assembly, in response to a union negotiation, approved a contract that will not only increase the pay of workers but provide workers’ compensation and increase holiday pay for thousands of private-sector, personal care assistants. However, this measure applies only to workers directly employed by the recipient of services and paid by the state. Nationally, Caring Across Generations, a coalition of more than 100 local, state, and national organizations, has sought a minimum wage of $15 an hour and other supportive policy for caregivers. Efforts to create home care worker-owned cooperatives are also gaining momentum.

Are we seeing a reconfiguration in all of this, and is it one that will in the end benefit workers, clients, and the agencies brokering services? Keep an eye on this sector, because the status quo is neither just nor sustainable.—Ruth McCambridge