U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday announced new rules that would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly two million workers who provide home care services for the elderly and infirm.
The home care industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. with approximately 1.8 million workers totally, the president said during a statement delivered at the White House.
"As the home care business has changed over the years, the law has not changed," he said. "They (home care workers) are still lumped in the category of teenage baby-sitters when it comes to how much they make."Currently, many home care workers are classified as "companions " and are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements under federal law.
"This means that many home care workers are forced to rely on food stamps just to make ends meet. In this country, that's unacceptable," Obama said. "They deserve to be treated fairly, they deserve to be paid fairly."
Under the new rule, minimum wage and overtime protections would expand to cover all home care workers employed by third parties, like staffing agencies. It would also ensure that those employed by families and performing skilled home care work, such as medically related tasks for which training is typically a prerequisite, are covered.
This was the latest step the administration has taken recently with its executive authority, under the slogan "We can't wait," to address the nation's economic and fiscal challenges. The president started resorting to executive power after his jobs plan was stalled in a highly partisan Congress.
While most of the executive actions are considered not so significant compared with the huge challenges the nation is facing, it might be the only way for the president to show he truly cares about the ordinary people and willing to do something to help them.
The moves are also seen as an attempt by the White House to blame congressional Republicans for the deadlock in Washington by portraying them as obstructionists who care about politics more than ordinary Americans.