Home health care workers to get hazard pay

Gov. Ralph Northam recently authorized $73 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) fund to be designated for hazard pay for home health personal care attendants who served high-risk populations early in the coronavirus pandemic.

“Home health care workers are often unseen, unsung, and underpaid, but they do the vital work of caring for vulnerable Virginians,” Northam said in a statement. “Their jobs put them at higher risk during this pandemic, and this hazard payment is a way we can acknowledge that they put themselves in harm’s way to help others. I want to thank our home health care workers for the work they do every day to keep people healthy.”



The pay will be allocated through a one-time pre-tax payment of $1,500 to 43,500 home health care workers who provided personal care and who served Medicaid members between March 12 and June 30.

In addition to the hazard payments, the state budget, which went into effect July 1, includes a 7 percent raise over two years for home health care workers. The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) is working to provide those workers with personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“The majority of home health care workers are women, and women of color, providing critical health services for low pay,” Sen. Louise Lucas, Chairwoman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, said in a statement. “This hazard payment acknowledges the essential work that they do and the risks they took especially in the early months of the pandemic, when less was known about this virus. It is one way we can show appreciation to the people who do such important work.”

Del. Mark Sickles, Chairman of the House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, calls these workers the “unsung heroes,” even in the best of times.

“This hazard payment is a way to show these workers that we value them and the essential work that they do,” he said in a statement.

David Broder, president of Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, lauds the decision, especially since the majority of this workforce is made up of Black and Brown women.

“Home care workers … are instrumental in helping older adults and people with disabilities lead healthy and active lives, safe at home and in the community,” he said in a statement. “That was especially important earlier this year when nursing homes faced outbreaks. This hazard pay recognizes their essential work. It’s an important investment that will support families and keep overall costs down for our healthcare system.”