The coronavirus continues to hit the state, and Governor Murphy can be excused for using phrases such as “We are still at war” as we head into a worrying winter.
But he must also recognize that the frontline soldiers in this war need combat pay because their lives are about to become intolerable.
The Certified Practical Nurses (CNA) of the state’s 370 nursing homes are in an impossible situation, sacrificing their own safety by doing back-breaking work most of us wouldn’t even attempt. It is bad enough that the injury rate in this job is three times that of construction workers. Now, just showing up for work puts you in the epicenter of a COVID outbreak.
It is therefore surprising that Murphy vetoed a bill last week that would provide a modest risk premium for these caregivers, and the legislature must not let this matter rest on its government blunder, even if it takes time. derogation.
It should not be repeated that nursing homes will be marked as New Jersey’s greatest failure when the history of this crisis is written. This is reflected in the morbid arithmetic: half of our state’s 14,600 deaths have occurred in these homes, and NACs – usually women, underpaid, working multiple jobs, with their own childcare issues. – are on display while caring for our sick, lonely, and bedridden elderly people.
Since March, 14,500 workers have been infected and 122 have died.
Indeed, infection controls and protective equipment have improved since the spring, but let’s face it: Friday there are 216 active homes in retirement homes, with almost as many employees (2,144) as of residents (2,408) infected.
So, at a time when New Jersey faces another horrific spike, Murphy is pleading poverty and won’t give these essential workers a better incentive to risk their lives – yet he has found the money to hand out bribes. -wine $ 500 policies disguised as a million-household tax credit?
It’s hilarious without being funny.
“We are disappointed that the administration has vetoed this advantage, just as workers face more challenges,” said Milly Silva of 1199SEIU, the country’s largest health union. “We urge them to reconsider how they provide a risk premium for the most dangerous jobs in the country. “
In fact, Murphy – who acknowledged that caregivers “endanger their own health and that of their families” in his veto message – should revisit a report he commissioned.
Released in June, the Manatt Report revealed a system-wide collapse in our long-term care facilities, particularly in the treatment of our 15,600 CNAs. His recommendation on page 32 cries out to the governor’s attention: “The state did not institute. . . . additional compensation to workers, ”the authors wrote. “Salary increases can help alleviate the need for staff to continue working at multiple facilities, thereby reducing the risk of exposure for themselves and residents. “
Then they cited Illinois as an example of a state doing it right, noting that it provides “an additional $ 2 / hour to employees working during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. . . .and extended sick leave.
You paid for the report, Governor. Now you can show that you have learned from it.
Yes, Murphy helped the NACs after years of political stagnation. He signed a pay raise, but that law only required a $ 3 raise above the current state minimum ($ 11), and NACs already averaged $ 15. He raised Medicaid’s historically low reimbursement rate for nursing homes, but employers don’t always pass the money on to nursing aides. It ultimately improved patient-to-CNA ratios, but the historic cessation of operation cannot be interpreted as a reward for the fight against COVID.
One godmother, MK Valerie Vainieri Huttle, said she was exploring ways to make the risk premium more attractive to the governor and easier to administer.
It can start with the obvious: This virus has exposed the huge gap between the worth of these workers and the disrespect they receive in return. Let’s recognize the risk they face just by showing up.
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