Nursing home employees use a lift with a resident.

The federal government is extending the deadline to comment on a new rule that would allow teenagers to operate lifts at nursing homes. Concerns from the new Congress may be partially to blame for the hold-up.

Nov. 26 was the original due date to submit feedback on the “teen worker rule,” which would drop the age required to operate power-driven lifts without supervision in nursing facilities to 16. Now, stakeholders have until Dec. 11 to submit their comments.

The comment period extension came after Democrats announced they planned to use their new majority to host a hearing on the proposal with Department of Labor officials.  

Members of the provider and business communities have favored the chance to broaden employment opportunities for teens, in order to help fill vacancies. In a statement to McKnight’s, the American Healthcare Association said the switch would help both skilled care and assisted living providers to more quickly meet residents’ needs.

“As DOL notes, this change will encourage the creation of more employment, apprenticeship and other training opportunities for people entering the workforce,” AHCA/NCAL said. Taking steps like this can help encourage interest in long term care careers, which is particularly important given the workforce shortage in the profession.”

Others, however, have argued the change could place young workers in danger. Consumer advocacy group the Long Term Care Community Coalition expressed doubts, saying this week that it is “deeply concerned by the potential impact of this proposed rule on long-term care residents. Residents across the country are all too often left exposed to potential harm when lifts fail.”

Similarly a group of nearly 50 House Democrats sent a letter to federal officials over the summer, urging them to consider the rule change with caution.