New stabilization fund aims to keep RI nursing homes staffed

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Those who are working in congregate settings could soon receive a pay bump.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the creation of the Workforce Stabilization Fund on Friday, which will allow care facilities to increase weekly wages for employees making less than $20 per hour beginning in the first week of May. Employers are encouraged to start applying next week with the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Raimondo said the decision to start offering more money to front-line workers in nursing homes, group homes and developmental disabilities homes comes as the virus-struck industries have been losing low-wage employees.

“I’ve decided to take action because these folks need some relief,” Raimondo said, noting that she had hoped the federal government would have started offering the extra pay by now.

“We can’t afford to do this forever,” she added. “It’s temporary, but it’s now.”

Nursing home residents have made up the vast majority of COVID-19 related deaths in Rhode Island. Raimondo said she wants to ensure that those protecting the states most vulnerable are being taken care of.

“These are the people doing the hardest work in the toughest conditions at the lowest wages,” she said.

The announcement was a sigh of relief for Scott Fraser, CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, which represents approximately 80% of the state’s nursing homes.

“It’s the CNA’s, the dietary staff, it’s housekeeping, it’s maintenance, it’s people who are working the laundry, all of these folks that are right on the front lines dealing with our residents,” Fraser said. “It’s very important that they get recognized for the hard work that they are doing each and every day.”

Fraser hopes the extra pay can be an incentive for nursing home employees to continue showing up for work, since staffing has been a challenge at a number of facilities across the state.

Next, Fraser said he wants to see a raise for all of his members.

“The Rhode Island Health Care Association has been advocating for this type of recognition pay, or hazard pay as some call it, for quite a while and we’ve been advocating for all of our members’ employees to get this,” he said. “We’re going to continue working with the federal delegation to see if we can get some additional federal funding to recognize all of our workers because it’s very important.”

Eli Sherman contributed to this report.

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