The ongoing pandemic has created plenty of problems in the homecare industry, especially related to caregivers and their ability to work safely at the height of the pandemic. Many people did not want caregivers entering their homes, and caregivers were worried about their own exposure. But in an hourly work environment, if a caregiver can’t get a shift, they don’t get paid.
In response, BAYADA Home Health expanded its existing employee assistance fund to address COVID-19 specific challenges, such as childcare, loss of transportation and shift reduction due to worries about the virus. Through the fund, the company, which converted to a not-for-profit organization in 2018, has provided caregivers in crisis more than $1 million in funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Leadership] thought, let’s see if we can set up something easy for our employees to contribute to as well as the company to contribute and help these folks through a very unusual set of circumstances,” said David Totaro, BAYADA’s chief government affairs officer. He added that the challenges employees were facing weren’t covered under government’s relief packages such as the Provider Relief Fund.
BAYADA caregivers can donate either a portion of their paychecks or paid time off (PTO) to the fund. There’s no expectation to donate, but at press time, employees had contributed nearly $600,000 in combined cash and PTO to the fund. The company also received two anonymous donations of $10,000 from outside corporations.
Client service managers at BAYADA’s 360 offices keep an ear out for where caregivers may be struggling and can recommend individuals for grants of up to $500. A committee of five people from across the organization reviews each recommendation and typically decides within five days. The appropriated funds go directly to the caregiver in their next paycheck.
The grants have covered a wide range of expenses, Totaro said.
“One caregiver wanted to continue to see her clients, but the bus route that she took was canceled because the transportation company was laying off employees, and so she was forced to take Uber or Lyft,” he said. The grant helped cover her costs to continue caring for clients. Another grant helped
cover burial costs for a caregiver who died due to COVID-19.
Totaro acknowledged that this program barely scratches the surface of need in the industry. The company has nearly 30,000 caregivers nationwide, and this program has given around 2,500 grants. Totaro said the next step is to tackle the issue of fair reimbursement on a national level.
“We need to really address the fact that the wages for these individuals are far below what they can get in retail or other positions, but they represent the foundation of our health care system,” he said. “We’ve got to develop an approach where these people are treated as professionals and paid the value that they deserve.”