The White House is proposing new rules Thursday that would guarantee minimum wage salaries and overtime protection for as many as 1.8 million workers who provide in-home care to the elderly.
President Obama and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will announce the regulations at noon at the White House as part of the administration’s “we can’t wait” campaign aimed at taking executive actions to stimulate the economy.
“Today’s action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn’t live without,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
Since the end of summer, Obama has rolled out a series of small-scale initiatives that do not require congressional approval, even as most of the larger provisions in his $450 billion American Jobs Act remain stalled on Capitol Hill.
The White House is demanding that Congress approve an extension of the payroll tax holiday and long-term unemployment insurance before it adjourns for its winter holiday. But Democrats and Republicans have failed to agree on how to pay for the proposals, and the standoff has threatened to undermine approval of an appropriations bill and may lead to a government shutdown Saturday.
Under current federal regulations, workers classified as “companions” do not qualify for minimum wage laws or overtime protections. They were exempted in 1974 under guidelines that applied to casual babysitters or companions for the elderly and infirm.
The White House said that 1.6 million of the nation’s 1.8 million in-home caregivers are employed by professional staffing agencies and deserve the wage protections. The new Labor Department rules will cover all of these workers, but they would not cover companions hired directly by families and whose job is to provide fellowship and visit with family and friends.