Senior Living Receives Healthcare Exemptions from Department of Labor for Coronavirus Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance on Saturday March 28, on key provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Of critical importance members is the definition of “healthcare provider” as it related to an employer’s ability to be exempt from the requirements of the act, according to the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA).

Under FFCRA, an employer with fewer than 500 employees must offer 10 days of paid sick leave and up to 12 days of paid emergency family and medical leave under certain criteria, including when the employee is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed due to coronavirus-related reasons. The act includes exemptions for healthcare providers and first responders, and granted the Secretary of Labor the ability to further define “healthcare provider” for purposes of this exclusion.

ASHA and Argentum submitted a request urging a swift interpretation that employees of senior living, independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities should be included in this definition.

“Our members do not object to offering paid sick leave if an employee becomes sick from COVID-19 and, in fact, most are already offering such benefits to their employees,” David Schless, ASHA’s president, wrote in a letter to members on Sunday. “We do, however, think the criteria for paid leave based on a school closing is misdirected and Congress should have instead offered child care resources for employees such as those that work in senior living who are serving on the front lines of this pandemic and crucial to keeping our residents safe.”

“We are very pleased that the Department of Labor revised their definition of healthcare worker to include the essential staff caring for our nation’s seniors,” added James Balda, Argentum’s president and CEO. “The country needs all hands on deck to protect vulnerable older adults, now more than ever. Senior living employees ensure that rigorous infection control procedures are maintained; deliver and prepare meals; monitor and screen visitors; and help to reduce effects of social isolation.”

A “Questions and Answers” page from the Department of Labor regarding FFCRA confirmed that retirement facilities were considered healthcare for the purposes of this act.

“We are pleased that DOL listened to our request,” wrote Schless.

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