SACRAMENTO — The cost of providing care to elderly and disabled Californians is set to increase in about 15 months because of new federal rules on overtime.
The new regulations, announced Sept. 17 by the U.S. Department of Labor, will require overtime pay for almost 2 million more workers nationwide, including nearly 360,000 caregivers in California's taxpayer-funded home care program.
Gov. Jerry Brown's administration estimates that the overtime will cost the state an extra $150 million annually for its In-Home Supportive Services program. The new rules won't kick in until Jan. 1, 2015; federal officials said that will give states such as California time to prepare.
"We want to make sure states have an opportunity to make any changes they need to make in order to have a smooth transition," said Laura Fortman, the principal deputy administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.
Advocates for the elderly and disabled are worried about how the state will respond to the new rules, particularly whether officials will try to contain costs by limiting the hours caregivers can work. If that happens, disabled Californians who need more than 40 hours of assistance every week would need additional workers.
"Home care providers are underpaid and under-appreciated," said Karen Keeslar, executive director of the California Association of Public Authorities, which connects workers with needy residents.
Kimberly Evon, secretary-treasurer of United Long Term Care Workers, which represents 180,000 home care workers, said it's up to the state to avoid harming the elderly and disabled when implementing the new rules.
Evon said overtime pay would make it easier to recruit and retain better caregivers.
"It's an incredible, giant step forward for home care workers to be treated and valued," she said.