Vermont Update 5-19-20
Incentive Pay for Frontline Employees (S. 346)
The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee met last week to discuss S.346, a bill that establishes an essential employee grant program for frontline workers. As passed by the Senate, the grants would be provided to frontline employees earning $25 an hour or less as a base wage. Home health agencies and long-term care facilities are excluded from the wage cap – all direct care staff would be eligible for grants under the Senate proposal. The committee raised concerns about whether the program is a permissible use of the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund because it is not explicitly allowed. The committee may wait for input from Vermont’s federal delegation before moving forward and at this writing, its future is uncertain. This is a sobering development. Vermont had done little to support the wages of employees serving Vermonters under the Medicaid long-term care program known as Choices for Care, a program that was fragile before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact.
The House Health Care and Government Operations Committees held separate hearings on Tuesday on S.125, a bill that allows Vermont to join the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact. The bill will enable a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse to practice in all Compact states without obtaining individual state licenses. Thirty-four states are signatories to the Compact . The Office of Professional Regulation, the Board of Nursing, the VNAs of Vermont and many other health care organizations are supportive of the bill as one tool to address the nursing shortage.
COVID-19 Testing and Quarantine
The Vermont Department of Health is working to ramp up COVID-19 testing to 1,000 tests per day through a variety of mechanisms including pop-up testing sites. The health department has opened a dialogue with the VNAs of Vermont about how home health and hospice agencies can help with these efforts.
The health department issued a health alert reducing the period of quarantine for possible COVID-19 exposure from 14 to 12 days, with a negative test.