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Advocates Urge Md. Lawmakers to Restore Wage Hike for Direct Support Workers

February 26, 2015

Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities and their advocates urged Maryland legislators to restore a proposed wage increase for direct support workers at a February 19 event in Annapolis.

The wage hike was attached to a 2014 bill raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10, which was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in April.

The bill would have ensured that direct support workers who care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would be paid an hourly wage at least 30 percent higher than the state minimum wage.

As originally passed, the bill would have increased funding for direct support workers’ wages by 4 percent in fiscal year 2015, and by 3.5 percent each year from FY16 to FY19.

On January 7, however, the lame-duck Gov. O’Malley cut the FY15 increase to just 2 percent.

Upon taking office, new Gov. Larry Hogan (R) lowered the FY16 increase from 3.5 percent to 1.75 percent in his first state budget proposal.

“Those two things together really did a lot of damage,” Laura Howell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Services, told WMAR-TV on February 25.

At the Feb. 19 event, people with disabilities and their advocates said that Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature should restore $9 million to the budget to fund the 3.5 percent FY16 raise.

Mat Rice, public policy director of the disability advocacy group People on the Go, told WBAL-TV, “The cuts to the direct support staff really do represent a clear and present danger to lives of Marylanders with intellectual disabilities.”

The advocates also urged Maryland lawmakers for $3 million to fund direct support services for the 125 people with developmental disabilities who remain on a waiting list for such services despite being at the greatest level of emergency need.

— by Matthew Ozga

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