Every day, nearly three million home care workers in the United States help the elderly and people with disabilities get the daily assistance they need. These workers make it possible for those in need to bathe, get dressed, eat, take medications and more, all while allowing them to stay independent and healthy within the comfort of their own homes and communities.
Yet despite the invaluable assistance home care workers provide, too many are paid poverty-level wages and offered few benefits, which results in undue hardship for them and their families. Ninety percent of these workers are women, and nearly half are forced to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.
These unacceptable circumstances are in part due to a loophole created by the Department of Labor's regulations interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act. The existing regulations exclude home care workers from the basic minimum wage and overtime protections that cover most other workers. The exclusion has denied workers fair compensation and threatened families' economic security for much too long.
That's why we are so pleased that the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would put an end to the exclusion and provide some welcome and overdue financial security for millions of home care workers. The move will have a profound impact on these families while improving working conditions and the quality of care in an industry that is growing as the country's population ages.
This is very good news for women, families and our economy, but the details of the rule have yet to be determined. Right now, the Department of Labor is accepting public comments on the rule to help define key provisions and its implementation. The deadline for submitting these comments is Monday, March 12th.
Considering what is at stake for home care workers and their families, it is critically important that the department sees that there is broad-based support for a strong rule that ensures minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers. The National Partnership will submit comments on the importance of extending these basic rights, particularly for women and families. We urge you to join us by sending your own words of support for the department's proposed rule here.
Establishing worker protections like this is critical for families and for the future of our country. The home care workforce has been grossly undervalued for much too long. This new rule will help ensure that millions of these women and men, who provide essential care to children, parents, grandparents and others in need, will be more fairly compensated for their critical work. It's time.