A state-mandated requirement to process a backlog of non-fingerprinted workers in Connecticut could exacerbate workforce challenges already experienced by long-term care employers there.

Healthcare workers hired in the Nutmeg State during the pandemic now have until July 20 to get fingerprinted for state-mandated background checks or risk being fired, according to a June 4 memo from the state’s Department of Public Health. Gov. Ned Lamont had suspended the requirement from March 23, 2020, to May 19, 2021, to facilitate the hiring of additional workers during the pandemic. 

In a letter sent to the acting commissioner and the chief of the Healthcare Quality and Safety Branch at the health department, District 1199 New England, SEIU President Rob Baril “warned that terminating the employees would negatively impact the care in nursing homes, which have been facing staffing shortages, and called the requirement ‘disrespectful’ to the sacrifices workers have made in the past year,” according to the Associated Press.

The union is asking state officials to postpone the deadline until Sept. 20. 

“All providers statewide are covered under the guidance, and the number of providers with employee applicants or provisional staff included in the backlog is unclear,” Christopher Carter, president of the Connecticut Assisted Living Association and Institute for Senior Living Education told McKnight’s Senior Living.

The order reportedly affects as many as 3,000 care workers out of approximately 7,500 who were hired during the pandemic and still need to be fingerprinted.

Carter said that assisted living participation in the Connecticut Applicant Background Check Management System had been effective since January 2017, and recent Connecticut Department of Public Health guidance regarding the restart of the system applies to assisted living providers as well as nursing homes.

“The order addresses those employees hired during the public health emergency because while other aspects of the ABCMS background check process were able to be performed during that time, the fingerprinting process was suspended during the emergency, Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

“Any provider who hired someone during this time period would have entered that employee’s into the ABCMS system and, therefore, would have been notified by the state at this time that the employee needs to be fingerprinted by July 20,” Morelli said.

“We are currently working with the state and assisting providers in accomplishing the fingerprinting by July 20,” she added.