Missouri Legislature Rejects Wage Raise for Home Care Attendants
A joint committee of the Missouri legislature rejected on May 12 an agreed-upon wage hike for home care attendants in the state’s consumer-directed services program.
By a 7-2 vote, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules said that the state Department of Health and Senior Services (HSS) did not have the authority to institute the raise.
“There’s nothing in statute that contemplates the actual wage rate to be set by the department, by administrative rule,” State Sen. Eric Schmitt (R) told the Jefferson City News Tribune on May 13.
The wage hike was part of a contract between the Missouri Home Care Union, which represents approximately 12,000 home care attendants, and the Missouri Quality Home Care Council, an HSS agency.
Ratified in December 2014, the contract would have allowed consumers to set their attendants’ hourly wages as high as $10.15, up from their current average wage of around $8.60 an hour.
But later that month, in a move described as “unnecessary and unwise” by home care advocates, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) declared that the wage raise would first need to be cleared by his administration — a move that subjected the hike to scrutiny by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Advocates argued that the legislature did not have to approve the wage raise because it did not raise the Medicaid reimbursement rate, which held steady at $15.56/hour.
On May 20, approximately 80 home care attendants and their advocates gathered at the state capitol to ask Nixon to enact the agreed-upon raise.
“The contract has been signed, and so it is a legal contract, and therefore it needs to be implemented,” Robert Minor of the organization Jobs for Justice told St. Louis Public Radio on May 20.
“I believe that the governor knows what to do,” he continued.
— by Matthew Ozga