How to support household employees during coronavirus pandemic

Many coronavirus-related conversations have been about supporting local restaurants and other small businesses to help keep these operators afloat.

But what about babysitters, landscapers, house cleaners, dog walkers, handyworkers and the legions of other household workers who typically venture out each day, but are now stuck inside without a reliable stream of income?

“We who have a steady income should continue to pay these people even if they’re not coming, because they rely on this income from us,” said Jane Lyder, a Bethesda, Maryland, resident who posted an appeal to pay such workers on her neighborhood social network Nextdoor Sumner.

“They do us a great service when they can come, and we owe it to them to make sure they stay well and are able to pay their rent and able to buy food,” Lyder said.

One financial planner has a few ideas about how to support such workers.

Such generosity is one of three options outlined by Barry Glassman for people who employ household help idled by the pandemic.

If people want to support their household employees despite them not being there, Glassman said an employer could tell the worker, “We can’t have you travel, we can’t have you here, but we’re going to fund your pay so that you can afford to live or so that you can stay in business.”

But Glassman said employers may be incentivized to keep paying household help, in an effort to maintain a choice time slot or special arrangement, for example with a dog walker.

Not everyone has sufficient funds to pay for services that they’re not getting during the shutdown.

Glassman said employers might consider prepaying household workers for future services, something that could even be extended to home contractors or other workers who are tackling larger home projects.

“We know that you’re having a tough time … we’re going to fund you this amount of money that we can afford right now, and that’s going to be a credit toward future services, to help you with cash-flow,” said Glassman.

And Glassman said a third option for those who employ idled domestic workers would be to advance holiday pay.

“This is your holiday bonus. We were going to give you a holiday bonus in December. We love working with you. You need it now more than in December. We’re going to help you in that way.”

Glassman said he expected such temporary benefits to be carried out by employers of household workers for perhaps as long as six weeks. However, though they may need it, he wondered how long employers would continue being generous toward independent contractors or employees.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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