Harrisburg – On February 9, 2016, over a hundred nursing home workers from across the Commonwealth held a march and a rally in the capitol rotunda today to shine a light on the crisis of poverty wages and call on lawmakers to support The Nursing Facility Accountability Act which would spur nursing home employers to provide a living wage, reduce the burden on taxpayers and improve resident care.
The Nursing Facility Accountability Act[i] (HB 1449 (Gainey) /SB 1057 (Leach) would incentivize nursing home employers to pay workers $15 an hour through the creation of a statewide Living Wage Certification Program that would make minimum wage rates paid to employees publicly available. Additionally, nursing home employers would be required to reimburse the state for the costs incurred by providing public assistance benefits to workers.
“I like what I do and want this to be my career,” said Phyliss Williams, a Harrisburg nursing home attendant, “But the sad fact is I can’t afford to make it a career. With the wages I make, I am struggling to support my family and must rely on Medicaid and food stamps. If we can raise nursing home wages to at least $15 an hour, this will go from being a job to a career for me and for so many others.”
A report released earlier this year by the Keystone Research Center[ii] confirmed that 52 percent of PA nursing home workers cannot support their families on the wages they earn, and, in 2015, the PA Department of Human Services found that over 14,000 nursing home workers received taxpayer-funded public assistance at an annual taxpayer cost of $118 million.
“I love helping people who have had a difficult medical condition recover. It’s a challenging job but a privilege to help people in need,” said Venaye Sanders, a Philadelphia restorative aide. “All my co-workers and I are asking for is to be fairly compensated to provide care to those who need it most.”
According to the report, the nursing home industry – which derives 70 percent of their revenue from Medicaid and Medicare – can afford to provide its workers a living wage. In 2014, it generated more than $400 million in profits.
A wage increase also would benefit nursing home residents by reducing turnover, improving continuity of care and lowering recruitment and training costs. Based on industry estimates, halving turnover from the industry standard of 66 percent for nursing assistants could, by itself, pay for a 60-cent per hour increase in caregiver wages.
For more information contact: Amelia Abromaitis – Amelia.Abromaitis@seiuhcpa.org / 215.219.4248