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“They call me criminal”: domestic care workers who can spread the virus

Mr. Vertu, 33, a food assistant, said he is paid around $ 9.80 an hour, a salary he says has remained roughly the same since he started working 14 years ago. Ms. Julceus, who is a certified nurse, earns around $ 12 an hour.

Sheryl Carlos, 56, works three jobs seven days a week in Port St. Lucie, north of West Palm Beach. One is in a nursing home and another in a retirement community; earn extra income by looking after a couple of people in private homes. Earn about $ 13 an hour.

“Let me tell you something, I don’t have a life,”

; she said recently as she walked home early in the morning after finishing a nine-hour shift. “If some jobs paid you enough, you shouldn’t work like that.”

Advocates of nursing homes say most facilities have little control over what other staff jobs have. It’s hard to raise wages, they say, when income is set by the state or Medicare.

“There are really good homeowners out there who do a good job and try to pay people more,” said Dr. Alice Bonner, who advises on aged care at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

“But if you’re getting mostly Medicaid clients in your nursing home, and you’re getting very little money for those clients, and it doesn’t cover your costs, then it’s really hard to increase salaries and benefits as well.”

In May and early June, one of Mr. Vertu and Ms. Julceus’ employers, Avante at Lake Worth Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing, fired them on the grounds that they had violated the policy by coming to work even though they had the coronavirus, according to the employees and their union, which filed complaints for the layoffs.

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