PRESS RELEASE: Seniors, Workers, Disability Rights Advocates Decry Frivolous Lawsuits

A Press Release from Liberty Resources, a coalition partner in Pennsylvanians for Dignity in Home Care

A Press Release from Liberty Resources, a coalition partner in Pennsylvanians for Dignity in Home Care

Seniors, Workers and Disability Rights Advocates Decry Frivolous Lawsuits that Threaten Home Care Services.

Consumers, workers and leaders of Pennsylvania’s top disability rights organizations file amicus briefs in support of Governor Wolf’s improvements to home and community based services

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2015 // For More Information: Liberty Resources Inc., Thomas Earle, 215-634-2000

HARRISBURG, PA – Calling the lawsuits against Governor Wolf’s program to improve and strengthen home and community based services “frivolous,” “costly” and “harmful,” a group of disability rights’ advocates, consumers and workers filed two amicus briefs in Commonwealth Court on Monday. The briefs contend that the Governor’s executive order provides a voice for consumers and attendants as a necessary step in addressing the state’s home care crisis. The individuals and groups filing the briefs are among the many Pennsylvanians supporting the Governor’s efforts to modernize the state’s long-term care services to meet the needs of seniors and people with disabilities and save taxpayer dollars.

Amicus briefs were filed by the Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living, Liberty Resources, Voices for Independence, home care attendant Lisa Savage and her son Brandon Savage, home care attendant Randall Adams and his client and stepfather Michael McNeil, and home care attendant Tyrone Heath.

The groups and individuals who filed the amicus briefs are available for interviews and are issuing the following statements:

Shona Eakin, Executive Director of Voices for Independence in Erie, a non-profit that provides consumer-driven independent living supports and services to people with disabilities: “Misinformation is coming from groups that are afraid of change, but Pennsylvania must not be afraid of change to its long-term care system if that change will increase resources for seniors and people with disabilities who have a growing need for services. Workers and consumers need a voice if Pennsylvania is going to strengthen and grow its home and community-based services system. People with disabilities and seniors overwhelmingly prefer home and community-based services.”

Thomas Earle, CEO of Liberty Resources, Inc., a center for independent living that serves thousands of people with disabilities, including many seniors: “Seniors and people with disabilities will be major beneficiaries of these new policies, because an unstable, under-compensated and under-supported workforce is the biggest challenge home care consumers face. Direct care workers will continue to be employed and directed by individual consumers. And they will continue to be paid through state Medicaid programs with payroll administered by a private company. The new executive order doesn’t change that relationship nor does it apply to agency-employed home care workers.”

Lisa Savage, a mom and full-time home care attendant from Philadelphia: “Strong public policy must include all stakeholders, and we are glad that we’ll have a voice to improve services for seniors and people with disabilities. For our consumers and our families—who are often one in the same—we must improve home care jobs so we can get more caregivers into the field and keep them there.

“I’m a full-time home care attendant for my son, Brandon, who is a quadriplegic, following a devastating gunshot wound. My dream is to get a house that is accessible for him, but I can’t even afford to cover the basics on what I am paid. I am scared that I’ll be forced to find another job to provide for my family, but that would leave Brandon without the care he needs, or someone would end up in the same strained position.”

BACKGROUND

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania seniors and people with disabilities have a need for regular care, and the number is growing. Over the next 20 years, the state is expected to have more than one million more residents over age 65. At the same time, there simply are not enough home care attendants to meet the growing need for home and community-based care. Many individuals are discouraged from becoming home care attendants because of low pay, lack of healthcare and limited, if any, training and support. Pay for home care attendants in Pennsylvania is 22 percent to 64 percent below what it costs to support a family in the state. Home care attendants in the Commonwealth were paid a median hourly wage of $10.44 in 2014, or $21,715 per year for a full-time worker. That means half of home care attendants in Pennsylvania are paid less than this amount.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Opponents of these common sense reforms aimed at providing a voice for consumers and attendants have deliberately distorted Governor Wolf’s executive order in an effort to maintain a status quo of low wages, high turnover, and workforce shortages that undermine quality of care. Here are some important facts about Governor Wolf’s executive order:

  • The executive order does not and cannot provide home care workers with the right to engage in collective bargaining and negotiate a legally binding union contract (which would require a change in state law), and it does not and cannot require any attendants to become union members and/or pay dues or fees to a union. The order simply directs the appropriate officials overseeing state long-term care programs to meet and confer with a representative for home care attendants, if the attendants choose to elect a representative.
  • The executive order allows – but does not require – the governor, appropriate officials and a home care attendant representative to reach non-binding understandings on matters of policy affecting the home care workforce.
  • In accordance with the executive order, the election allowing direct care workers to choose whether to select a representative is being conducted by the American Arbitration Association (AAA), a decades-old independent organization and the nation’s leader in supervising private ballot elections of this kind. The election process has begun because, pursuant to the executive order, enough direct care workers – more than 10% of this workforce – told the state that they wanted the chance to vote in an election for a representative.

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Liberty Resources, Inc. is a not-for-profit, Consumer-controlled organization that advocates and promotes independent living for all persons with disabilities. As a Center for Independent Living (CIL), Liberty Resources advocates with disabled people, individually and collectively to ensure our civil rights and equal access to all aspects of life in the community.

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