On Monday, Governor Ned Lamont announced that beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, Connecticut’s minimum wage will increase from the current rate of $15.00 per hour to $15.69 per hour as a result of the state’s first-ever economic indicator adjustment. The newly enacted adjustment is required under Public Act 19-4, which implemented five incremental increases in the minimum wage between 2019 and 2023, followed by future adjustments that are tied to the percentage change in the federal employment cost index (ECI).
A bill called "Higher Wages for American Workers Act of 2023" (S.2785) was introduced on September 13, 2023, to increase the federal minimum wage to $11 an hour over the next four years. The legislation also includes a provision mandating using E-verify to ensure that the wage increase benefits only legally eligible workers. The bill aims to adjust the minimum wage for inflation every two years and offers a slower phase-in for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. This bill is a renewed attempt to raise the minimum wage after a similar proposal in 2021 did not gain traction in the Senate. Many states already have higher minimum wage rates, which automatically adjusts at regular intervals.
During the last week of the legislative session in California, both houses of the legislature approved SB 525 (Durazo), a bill that would raise the hourly minimum wage for workers at health care facilities, as defined, to $23 next year, $24 in 2025, and $25 in 2026.
Under the bill, the phased-in minimum wage hike would cover all employees of covered health care facilities, including cleaning and maintenance staff, food service workers, gift shop workers, medical coders, and nursing assistants – although not all would see an immediate raise.
The California State Legislature passed a bill (SB 616) that, if signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would require employers in California to provide workers with five days of sick leave per year, up from the current three days mandated by law. The California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF) opposes the legislation, expressing concerns about the increased costs for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and the lack of accompanying funding to cover these expenses. CAHF emphasizes that SNFs largely rely on government payers and fears potential challenges in hiring staff to meet mandatory staffing standards due to ongoing workforce issues. The bill is supported by the California Labor Federation and SEIU California, with proponents arguing that it enables workers to prioritize their health without financial strain, while opponents contend that many small businesses, still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, may struggle to afford the additional sick days.
On August 30, the U.S. Department of Labor introduced a proposed rule to raise the minimum salary required for employees to be exempt from overtime (any hours over 40 hours per week) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Currently set at $35,568 per year ($684 per week), the proposed rule aims to increase this threshold to $55,000 per year ($1,059 per week), affecting over 3.5 million salaried employees who may no longer qualify for overtime exemption if implemented. The rule also raises the salary threshold for Highly Compensated Employees to $143,988 per year. Employers are advised to prepare for potential changes and assess employee eligibility for exemption accordingly.
Last Thursday, the HCAOA Connecticut Chapter hosted state Department of Consumer Protection officials for an informational session with members to discuss two new state laws regulating the home care industry.
Beginning October 1, 2023, Public Act 23-48 expressly allows homemaker-companion agencies to use the word “care” in their business names and advertising and advertise having employees trained to provide services to people with memory difficulties, if certain requirements are met. Additionally, Public Act 23-99 expands disclosure requirements for HCAs, such as HCAs providing the name of the caregiver in writing to the client before she enters the client’s home and when an agency changes service rates and ceases operations.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule that would update, clarify, and strengthen the statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance or are conducted by a Federal agency.
HCAOA has received member inquiries regarding CMS’ GUIDE initiative to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. Home care organizations currently providing care to people with dementia have expressed an interest in participating in the CMS GUIDE Model, which will offer a standard approach to care, including 24/7 access to a support line, as well as caregiver training, education, and support services. This standard approach will allow people living with dementia to remain safely in their homes for longer by preventing or delaying nursing home placement and improving the quality of life for both people living with dementia and their unpaid caregivers.
If you are a provider under the VA Community Care Network, you see first-hand how important home care is to our veterans and their families. That’s why HCAOA needs your help. Today, if a veteran’s home care costs reach 65% of the cost the Veterans’ Administration would pay for providing care in a nursing home, funding stops, and the veteran and their family would have to pay for the care.
HCAOA New York Chapter Co-chair and owner of Right at Home – North Shore Long Island Zubin Kapadia met recently with New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-15) to discuss critical legislative matters. Sen. Addabbo said he supported the legislation to increase caregiver wages in the 2022 budget, which Kapadia also supports, and recognizes the need to incentivize and retain good aides. However, he noted that the legislation was driven principally by the proponents of labor, and thus the impact on private pay agencies and seniors was not fully considered. Zubin Kapadia stated, “I laid the blame for that on us as business owners to do more to educate the legislature on the downstream impact of these laws; i.e. private pay client rates will increase, families will be burdened with paying more out of pocket, and many will file for state Medicaid or go to the gray market for care. I noted that most of our clients are “family funded” and there is a huge misconception that private pay homecare is only for the wealthy. I mentioned that as opposed to Medicaid agencies, we will not get any offset in the form of higher reimbursements, and thus a tax credit would be the most appropriate way to protect seniors and level the playing field.”
HCAOA and members are continuing advocacy work continues on our top legislative priorities while Congress is on summer recess. HCAOA asks members for help on our three top issues: contact your U.S. Representative and Senator and ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor of these bills. It’s easy – we’ve pre-written the message for you!
As HCAOA looks ahead to Congress reconvening in September, we must remain vigilant in advocating on behalf of the home care industry. Decisions made by elected officials can significantly impact our sector, often without a full grasp of home care's invaluable role in the lives of millions of older Americans and individuals with disabilities. This is where HCAOA's strategic advocacy efforts come into play.
HCAOA recognizes the critical importance of advocating for our members' interests at the federal and state levels. To continue effectively championing our cause, HCAOA relies on the dedicated efforts of lobbyists who work tirelessly to promote our mission. However, this undertaking comes with its financial demands.
Last week, Governor Ned Lamont announced that he has signed into law legislation implementing procedures that protect seniors from suspected cases of financial fraud, scams, and exploitation by a person taking care of an older adult.
The mandatory withholdings for the WA Cares Fund were implemented on July 1, 2023. Originating from the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Trust Act, signed by Governor Jay Inslee on April 21, 2021, this state-operated long-term care insurance initiative requires employers to deduct premiums from their employees' payrolls, unless proof of exemption is provided. The enactment followed amendments outlined in H.R. 1732 and H.R. 1733, signed by Governor Inslee on January 27, 2022, which postponed and modified the withholding until July 1, 2023.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted last Wednesday to report out H.R. 542, The Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act, to the full House of Representatives. HCAOA members strongly advocated for a more accurate CBO score – from the original score of $24 billion to the more realistic of $200 million over 10 years – and for allowing veterans to exceed the 65% cap on home care. While this is a step forward, our work continues. Join our effort to get more sponsors on this bill. Contact your U.S. Representative and urge them to speak up for our veterans and sign on as a sponsor for H.R. 542.