(TRENTON) – Aiming to ensure certified nurse aides (CNAs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are more fairly compensated for their work in long-term care facilities, the full Assembly on Thursday voted 49-17-11 to approve a bill to require the minimum wage for direct care staff in these facilities to be $3 higher than the current New Jersey minimum wage. The measure was also approved by the Senate 36-2, and now heads to the Governor’s desk.
“Nurses in long-term care facilities help residents bathe, dress, eat, use the restroom, and manage their medical care. Though they deliver vital care to our most vulnerable, they are often underpaid and overworked,” said Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex), prime sponsor of the legislation. “Now amid a global pandemic, they are putting their own health on the line every day. They deserve to be better compensated for their essential work.”
Under the measure (A-4482), sponsored by Tucker and Assembly Democrats Thomas Giblin and Annette Chaparro, the minimum wage for direct care staff in long-term care facilities would be annually adjusted based on cost-of-living increases.
The bill would also require the New Jersey Commissioner of Human Services to submit recommendations to the Legislature for legislative approval of any reimbursement rate increases as may be needed to comply with the new minimum wage requirements.
“There are often staffing shortages and retention issues in long-term care facilities, in part because staff are poorly paid and may need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic). “Providing pay increases will undoubtedly attract quality workers to the profession and help facilities retain their staff, which in turn will ensure residents are better cared for.”
“Direct care staff are the unsung heroes of healthcare. Like all frontline workers, they have gone the extra mile to respond to COVID-19,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “They dedicate their lives to helping our elderly or disabled loved ones live with dignity. It’s time we paid them a dignified wage in return.”
Additionally, the legislation would require the Commissioner of Human Services to establish a direct care loss ratio reporting and rebate requirement in long-term care centers. Facilities would be required to report total revenues collected, along with a portion of revenues that are expended on direct care staff wages, other staff wages, administrative costs, facility improvements and profits. This requirement is intended to ensure long-term care operators offer wages that attract quality workers.