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Advocates for Direct-Care Workers Call for Wage Increases

March 20, 2014

In recent weeks, advocates for direct-care workers have rallied for wage increases that will promote job stability and counteract high turnover rates in the field.

In Minnesota, advocates for direct-care workers and the people they care for are urging lawmakers to consider using a state budget surplus to fund a 5 percent Medicaid waiver increase.

Cindy Ostrowski of Hiawatha Homes, a residential care facility, said that even a small increase could help lower the facility’s direct-care worker turnover rate of 40 percent.

Residents “depend upon their staff to be there each and every day for them and it’s really hard when they have staff turnover,” she said.

In North Carolina, members of the AARP are planning to urge the state legislature to expand a program that supports elders who want to live at home.

The Home Care Community Block Grant provides assistance to family caregivers — including funding for home care workers — to allow their loved ones to age in place.

In Delaware, advocates for state-contracted home health aides and personal care workers have requested an additional $18 million to fund wage increases over the next three years.

The Delaware Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, a membership organization of long-term care providers, said that these workers have been underpaid for the last 10 years.

“This is a crisis,” said Connie Hughes, executive director of the association. “Something has to be done and something has to be done this year.” Hughes cites high turnover as a primary symptom of chronically low wages.

In New York, the state assembly included in its budget a Cost of Living Adjustment targeted specifically to direct support professionals and service providers who work in group homes that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The workers have not seen their wages increase since 2006.

Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D), who has a son with a disability, said that the stagnant wages for direct-care workers have led to high turnover rates in the field, thereby degrading care continuity.

— by Matthew Ozga

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