Home Health Aides’ Long Wait for Wage Fairness

More than three million home health aides — a lifeline for the
elderly who are neither in institutions nor able to manage life’s mundane tasks
on their own — are learning exactly how sclerotic the nation’s regulatory
processes can be. Nearly half of home health aides are so poorly paid, they
must rely on public benefits like food stamps and energy assistance. Sixteen
months ago, President Obama promised to change Labor Department rules that
exclude them from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which
guarantees minimum wage and overtime to all other categories of American
workers. The exclusion dates to 1974, long before the demographic changes that
are making this a country of older people. The aides are still waiting. At the
moment, they are considered “companions” under the law — just like teenage
babysitters, the kind who live down the block and watch your children for a few
hours while you go out to dinner and the movies. After the Department of Labor
submitted its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, a division
called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs began a 60-day comment
period, another chance for advocates, opponents, and just plain folks to have
their say. The comment period has been extended twice. According to PHI, which
advocates for better conditions for low-wage workers, more than 20,000 comments
were received, 75 percent in support of the change. The Office of Management
and Budget declined to respond to questions about this process, citing “a
longstanding policy not to comment on rules under review.”

Source/more: New York Times

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