Earlier this spring, a home care worker for Arosa+LivHome and her husband were on the brink of eviction, largely due to the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other uncontrollable circumstances.
To complicate the situation further, the home care worker was pregnant, Arosa+LivHome CEO Ari Medoff told Home Health Care News. In all likelihood, the loss of the couple’s home would endanger the unborn child, he said.
“One of our caregivers was pregnant and facing a devastating amount of distress, putting her pregnancy at risk,” Medoff recounted. “But partly thanks to a new grant program we started this year, she was able to stay in her home and have a successful delivery, a healthy baby.”
Formed in 2018 after Bain Capital Double Impact acquired and combined two regional health care companies, Arosa+LivHome has grown into a diversified home-based care enterprise with operations in seven states and counting.
Arosa+LivHome’s core business revolves around non-medical home care, hospital-to-home transitions and supporting clients with complex conditions. The company also recently dramatically expanded its care management capabilities following its acquisition of Illinois-based Lifecare Innovations.
From the outset, Medoff sought to differentiate Arosa+LivHome from its competitors by investing in workforce development programs, offering above-average pay and rolling out innovative employment benefits not normally found in the home care world. The grant program that helped the pregnant caregiver — Arosa Grant Circle — is a reflection of that mission.
“In the home health care business that we’re in, there are a lot of traditional benefits that don’t really benefit our team members,” Medoff said. “For example, 401(k) plans are important, but it is difficult to plan 20 or 30 years into the future if you can’t pay rent this week.”
Arosa Grant Circle
Launched in late April, Arosa Grant Circle is an emergency fund for Arosa+LivHome caregivers and office staff.
Medoff — who previously worked in private equity and investment banking before entering the home care space in 2014 — had been looking for ways to implement a “rainy day fund” for years. He finally found one in Canary, a New York City-based startup that helps companies of all shapes and sizes craft financial safety nets for their workers.
“The issue has always been that emergency funds are much more geared toward very, very large organizations,” Medoff said. “If you’re Home Depot or General Electric, you have thousands of employees [to help grow funds], plus the resources to navigate all the tax and legal complexities. It’s difficult to serve small or medium-sized businesses with this type of service.”
Medoff was first introduced to Canary after meeting CEO Rachel Schneider at a 2019 event hosted by HCAP, a mezzanine lender out of San Diego and one of Arosa+LivHome’s financial partners.
“We immediately started talking about how what Canary was building could help us,” Medoff said.
Powered by Canary, Arosa Grant Circle allows employees facing financial hardship to submit a request for a no-strings-attached grant, usually in the range of $500 to $1,000. Requests are kept anonymous, ensuring that there is no favoritism in the review process.
“There’s an important degree of fairness and consistency that Canary brings to the table,” Medoff said. “That’s the way it should be, so that it’s not, ‘I really like Mary, so we’ll give her money. I don’t like Sally quite as much, so we’ll give her a little bit less.’”
So far, Arosa+LivHome has approved more than a dozen grants, the CEO noted.
In another example of how employees have used the fund, one caregiver was unable to work because eight people at her children’s day care had been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Although that caregiver had to quarantine to protect Arosa+LivHome’s clients, she was able to make ends meet until safely restarting home visits.
A 21st century social safety net
Before becoming Canary’s CEO, Schneider worked at the Financial Health Network, a nonprofit dedicated to improving American’s financial health through public policy and research. She also co-authored the book “The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty.”
Canary is a relatively new startup, Schnieder told HHCN. It went into product development in early 2019, with “measured” plans to pilot its platform with “a very small number of companies” by the end of this year.
But the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated those plans.
“We were going to bring on about one company a quarter in a really deep, partner-piloted way,” Schnieder said. “And then it became clear that we had to move a lot faster.”
Before the ongoing public health crisis and corresponding economic downturn, about half of Americans were already unable to come up with at least $400 if they had an emergency, according to Federal Reserve statistics. About two-thirds hadn’t saved enough cash to withstand a sudden disruption to their income.
Despite government relief efforts, COVID-19 has drastically increased the number of Americans facing financial hardship. While the U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, 1.7 million in July and 4.8 million in June, overall payroll numbers are still more than 11 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.
“We support companies and workers by giving them new resources in moments of need,” Schneider said. “We think that access to emergency funds is a core part of the 21st century social safety net.”
Currently, Canary only works with domestic companies, though it hopes to eventually become a solution for businesses around the world.
In terms of financing a fund, money can come directly from a company’s PnL, from individual employee contributions or from dedicated fundraising efforts. One a fund is created, companies can either hold on to money themselves or let Canary manage it “in a few different ways,” Schneider said.
“Our goal is to make this really easy for a company,” she added. “If you want to start a fund, reach out to us. We have an initial conversation about your goals, how many employees you have and what your expectations are. We have a set of default program choices that you can then adopt.”
‘Getting punched in the nose’
Arosa+LivHome felt the brunt of COVID-19’s impact in early spring, Medoff said. After the virus began spreading across the U.S., Medoff and his team quickly began sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) and putting the right infection control protocols in place.
“The impact of the virus has come in some pretty distinct phases,” Medoff recalled. “March and April was the ‘getting punched in the nose and trying to figure things out’ phase.”
At no point did Arosa+LivHome ever think about shying away from COVID-19-positive patients, he said.
While the Arosa Grant Circle is in line with Medoff’s existing organizational vision, it can also be seen as a way to attract and retain caregivers at a time when front-line health care workers are at a premium.
Arosa+LivHome plans to continue the grant program moving forward. It additionally expects to continue growing, building off of its eight acquisitions since 2018.
That shouldn’t be too hard now that the M&A landscape is starting to heat up again. The heightened focus on home-based care and all of the setting’s advantages will likewise help drive Arosa+LivHome’s growth in months to come.
“We saw very few incidents of the virus from March through late June, which I think really speaks to the safety of home care and personal care services,” Medoff said. “It’s just a model that has fewer infections and opportunities for mass outbreaks.”