Suzanne Clark and SEIU 1199 home care workers rally at the Capitol

It looks like light at the tunnel for some hardworking home care workers. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services approved the federal funds for bonuses and health care that were negotiated as part of a labor package in May. 

The approval marks the first time these more than 11,000 workers will have access to a stipend to off-set the cost of health insurance and a long-awaited bonus. 

SEIU 1199NE, which has been fighting Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration for access to the funding approved in the contract, said they were grateful. 

“We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Gov. Lamont and his team for their hard work in shepherding this contract through CMS for approval,” SEIU 1199NE President Rob Baril said. “This is a significant step towards lifting long-term care workers out of poverty and providing them with the economic justice they deserve.”

The union had long argued that the state could put up its $22 million to start funding those parts of the contract while waiting for the additional $28 million, but the administration refused. 

SEIU 1199NE, which represents the workers, estimates that over 2,000 of the 11,000 home care workers covered by the contract would meet the eligibility requirements to purchase health insurance through the exchange with the stipend. 

“As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.’ This funding is an investment in economic, racial and gender justice. The home care industry, whose workforce is majority women, and people of color here in Connecticut, is rapidly growing. We will keep working with state leaders like Gov. Lamont to make sure that these caregivers and their home care consumers will be able to meet their most basic needs as human beings who deserve to live with dignity,” said Baril.

The union is asking the state for a deadline extension for PCAs to purchase health insurance plans on the exchange to April 15, allowing workers enough time to take full advantage of these benefits.

In a statement Tuesday, the administration said the exchange would offer an additional enrollment period for the workers.

“Access Health CT will provide a Special Enrollment Period for eligible PCAs to use the new premium stipend after the January 15 deadline to purchase affordable healthcare on the exchange,” Anthony Anthony, Lamont’s chief spokesman, said. “Details will be available and will be communicated with the union prior to the end of regular enrollment.”  

In addition to receiving a health insurance stipend and up to five days of paid time off per year for the first time, PCAs will also receive a 6% retroactive lump sum bonus for all hours worked from April 2021 through March 2022. The bonus is scheduled to be paid by January 9, 2023.

Home care workers earn around $17 an hour and many have never had access to health insurance.