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Maryland Direct-Care Workers Seek Wage Increase through Minimum-Wage Bill

April 1, 2014

Hundreds of direct-care workers and consumers converged at the Maryland Senate building on March 26 to support a proposed provision to new minimum-wage legislation that would raise the workers’ wages.

An estimated 200 workers and their clients, who have developmental disabilities, attended a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, and a small delegation was able to meet with lawmakers privately afterward, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, Maryland adheres to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Under the legislation currently under debate, the minimum wage would be gradually increased over the next several years, eventually reaching $10.10.

Direct support workers employed through the state’s home and community-based services waiver programs earn an average wage of $9.82 an hour.

A Wage Increase for Direct Support Workers

State Senator Thomas Middleton, chair of the Senate Finance committee, has made it a priority to include a raise for direct support workers in any proposed minimum-wage legislation. He has said he will not send the bill to a vote unless the wage increase for direct support workers is included.

Middleton, who has a relative with a developmental disability, said that raising workers’ wages would stabilize the profession and result in better care.

“We’ve got vacancies, a high turnover rate, and they’re dealing with a very, very vulnerable population,” he said at a Finance Committee work session, according to the Baltimore Sun.

On April 2, the Senate Finance Committee voted to approve a minimum-wage bill that would increase the budget for community service providers by 4 percent in FY 2015, and by 3.5 percent in FY 2016, FY 2017, and FY 2018.

The increases would amount to a $30 million budget increase each year for community service providers. That money would be used to fund raises for direct support workers.

As of April 3, a separate Senate Committee on Budget and Taxation needs to sign off on the bill before it proceeds to a full floor vote.

Lawmakers must pass the minimum-wage law before April 7, the date the current legislative session ends. 

— by Matthew Ozga

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