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Lawmakers Support Direct-Care Worker Wage Increases in Minnesota, Massachusetts

April 25, 2013

State lawmakers in Minnesota and Massachusetts have taken steps to raise the wages of direct-care workers.

On April 22, the Minnesota House approved the first wage increase for direct-care workers in nearly five years. The increase was included in the budget for the state’s Health and Human Services department.

If the budget — which still needs Senate approval — is signed into law, community-based home care workers will see a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), while nursing home workers will get a 3 percent COLA, according to a KAAL-TV report.

Supporters say that these workers deserve a much larger raise — as high as 10 percent, according to State Rep. Thomas Huntley (D).

“Right now [direct-care workers] can walk down the street to 10 other jobs that pay the same,” Huntley told the Twin Cities Daily Planet

However, the 2-3 percent increases are the best that lawmakers can do in the current political climate, Huntley said.

A PHI report published last October shows that low wages are one of several barriers preventing Minnesota from building an adequate home care workforce.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Responds to Rally

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts House on April 22 appropriated $7.5 million to fund wage increases for human service workers.

The move came just days after more than 500 human service workers held a rally at the state house in Boston to support higher wages and increased funding for state programs that aid people with disabilities.

In an interview with the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, State Rep. Betty Poirier (R) said that the human service workers “work incredibly hard and, though we’re dealing with some other budget issues, it’s their turn to get more money.”

Massachusetts’s human service workforce currently earns an average of $12 an hour, and have not had a wage increase since the 2008 fiscal year.

The Caring Force (pictured above), an organization that supports better wages for human service workers in Massachusetts, organized the rally.

The House-approved budget appropriate will now move on to the state Senate.

For more information on the direct-care workforces in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and every other state, visit the PHI State Data Center.

— by Matthew Ozga

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