N.J. bill would mandate home health care works get $18 an hour

     The N.J. state Capitol building is the third-oldest state house in continuous legislative use in the United States. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

    The N.J. state Capitol building is the third-oldest state house in continuous legislative use in the United States. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

    A bill awaiting final passage in the New Jersey Senate would require home health care aides to be paid $18 an hour.

    The measure follows cuts in the reimbursement rate for personal care services funded through Medicaid managed care organizations.

    Kearny resident Victor Muniz was injured in 2008 when a tree branch hit his head during a storm. He says home health care helped him with basic tasks and he’s been able to graduate from college, get a job, and get married.

    “They got me going. They got me seeing that there’s more to life than just sitting there and doing nothing. They helped me get through everything.”

    Senator Loretta Weinberg said the demanding work merits more than $22,000 a year.

    “Salaries should be raised not only to give a living wage to the people who are doing this work, but to give them the respect of the importance of the work that they are doing.”

    Senator Diane Allen said she’s embarrassed by the salary they’re now getting.

    “When you put somebody in a position like this, they’re unable often to keep that job because they’re making such a small amount of money. And so there’s a high turnover. That makes it harder for the person who’s being cared for.”

    The measure would cost the state about $8 million a year. Supporters say it will ensure enough aides so patients won’t need to move to more expensive hospital settings.

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