Taken from NJ.com
By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com and Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
August 18, 2020
Yachona Muhammad, a 46-year-old aide at Forest Hill HealthCare Center in Newark, was forced to look for a second job after her hours were suddenly slashed to as few as three days a week in July.
“My hours got cut because of the pandemic,” she said. “Budget cuts.”
Five months into the deadly coronavirus outbreak that devastated the state’s nursing homes and killed nearly 7,000 residents and staff, operators of many long-term care facilities say they are running short on cash. The facilities are looking to cut costs in some cases by cutting the hours of those workers who kept showing up, day after day, even as COVID-19 swept through their facilities, workers and union officials said.
The staff reductions come even as tens of millions of dollars in federal CARES Act relief aid has been earmarked to nursing home operators in New Jersey, along with hundreds of millions more in government-backed Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Milly Silva, executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents 8,000 nursing home workers in New Jersey, said she was stunned to learn that nurse aides in particular were being told to go home, or use vacation days to complete their weekly schedule because their hours were being cut back.
“Nursing home workers, the majority of whom are women of color, are called heroes — and by any measure, they are,” said Silva. “Yet during the worst health crisis in living memory, they have to fight for even the most basic consideration from their employer.”
In one case, Silva said, a single worker on the night shift was one of only two certified nurse aides taking care of 50 residents.
An official at Forest Hill HealthCare Center, where Muhammad works, declined to comment.
And although the state Health Department reported ongoing outbreaks inside 231 or about one-third of all long-term care facilities last week, some facilities, like the Alameda Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Perth Amboy, have discontinued the added bonus of hazard pay, Silva said.
Alameda officials did not respond to a request for comment.