Could Trump’s ‘Hire American’ Order Worsen Caregiver Shortage?

Throughout the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency, there has been a lot of talk about border control and immigration.

That may not be good news for the many home health agencies across the country that have found it difficult to recruit good caregivers. One solution to that problem has been tapping into the immigrant labor pool. Could Trump’s actions make that harder?

Many home health agencies just don’t know yet.

Wait and see

Trump’s administration has cracked down on workers entering the country, both illegally and legally. A recent executive order instructs companies to “buy American and hire American” and moves to restrict H-1B visas, which allow immigrant workers to be hired by tech firms and other companies needing specialized skilled labor. Though the order hasn’t changed much about the immigrant labor landscape just yet, the worst may be yet to come, reports the New York Times.

“The whole topic of hiring American, it’s great, except it may not work in our industry because of most of our employees are foreign born,” says Lenny Verkhoglaz, CEO of New Jersey-based home care franchising company Executive Home Care Franchising. “We have enough clients, but not enough workers.”

Many of Verkhoglaz’s employees come from outside the U.S. His company uses E-Verify and collects I-9 tax forms to ensure they are legally allowed to work in this country.

So far, the immigrant labor pool is still fairly vibrant, and it doesn’t seem like that will change any time soon, Verkhoglaz says. If anything, he adds, Trump might soon decrease competition from fly-by-night home health agencies that hire illegal immigrants.

“I don’t see us being hurt by this… executive order,” he says. “I think things will settle down. Millions of people are still looking to come to the United States.”

Still, Verkhoglaz isn’t optimistic about the long-term picture. The labor shortage will only grow with demand, and unless the industry finds a way to increase its labor pool, it will go from bad to worse, he says.

No easy way out

The workforce shortage won’t be easy to solve, and Trump’s order isn’t helping much, according to Bob Fazzi, managing partner at Massachusetts-based home care consulting firm Fazzi Associates. Though Trump’s actions may result in more jobs for Americans, Fazzi says there may not be enough U.S. workers to fill the gap.

“We often see people from other countries doing a sensational job, and we if eliminate them, who will provide the services?” he says.

It also doesn’t help that home health agencies often compete with national restaurant chains and other big employers for workers.

“[The problem] really comes into play in home health aides, [who are typically] lower level salaried positions,” he says. “Along comes McDonald’s, and people look at the two salaries, and McDonald’s pays more and has insurance.”

So, what to do? Verkhoglaz has an idea. What the industry really needs is a way for illegal immigrants to stay in the country and join the workforce fair and square, he says.

“It would expand the pool significantly,” he says. “We know the immigrants. Why not make those people legal?”

Trump has remained mum so far on providing a path to citizenship for illegal workers, but with a president who’s known for wild swings in both mood and political leanings, anything seems possible.

Written by Tim Regan

Photo Credit: “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore, CC BY SA 2.0