Note: The following is a letter I wrote to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. They had a hearing at 10 AM. You can still comment to the Department of Labor direct about the regulation until tomorrow. Click here!
I am deeply concerned about the effect, however unintended, that the new Department of Labor (DOL) rules will have in my life, that of my PCA's, and the lives of my many other friends with significant disabilities. I’m so glad that the subcommittee had this hearing.
Let me tell you what I face as person with Cerebral Palsy. The amendment against hiring friends is ludicrous. Am I to spend several hours per day with someone I don’t care for or about? Why would I or anyone choose to do that? I am very active and tend to pick PCA’s who enjoy the activities I enjoy. Most of my best assistants are already my friends when they are hired, if not they quickly become so. I go to their kid’s birthday parties, we go out to eat when they are not working, and/or we chat on the phone or Facebook. I am still friends with a good number of my former PCA’s. Now the DOL is trying to tell me that I can’t hire those people anymore, simply because we’re friends? Where then do I find new help?
Also the 40 hour a week limit without mandating overtime pay without increasing Medicare or Medicaid’s budget for PCA care is another big problem. If you were simply going to pay my PCA’s extra for the hours they worked over 40, I would be rejoicing, because this would mean that the people I took on trips, who work very hard with no breaks until I return would be especially rewarded, but because you don’t control the budget of Medicare or Medicaid, these same people would be forced to work just as hard for over $900 less in pay when they travel with me. This is not fair and will result in me missing events much more than usual. This will then affect my bottom line economically as a reporter, because I’ll be able to cover fewer things. I worked really hard to get where I am and don’t feel the DOL should interfere in my employability. Isn’t that the opposite of their intended effect?
If I must reduce my assistance hours to 40 weekly per person, one person who works for me would need to move. My emergency PCA would need to fill in, for probably no pay unless she wanted me to run out of hours- creating yet another problem in the long run, until I found a new person. This process sometimes takes weeks, especially if I’m not permitted to use my regular channels. How is that fair to her?
Passing this proposal would hurt me, hurt my PCA’s, and help no one. Please consider this in your decision making.