Editorial: Plan to boost pay for caregivers badly needed

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

One can judge a society by the way it takes care of its elderly and most vulnerable members.

A plan by DFL Rep. Jack Considine to boost pay of direct support workers who work with vulnerable adults is a step in supporting that safety net for the most vulnerable. He has proposed a 10 percent pay increase for caregivers who on average earn about $11 to $12 per hour. The plan calls for an additional 5 percent wage increase in 2018.

The pay raises would come through increasing the state’s reimbursement plan for organizations who provide caregiving.

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Current wages are sometimes lower than what people can make at fast food restaurants, say advocates of caregivers, and that work is a lot less difficult than being a personal care attendant or other caregiver. The Best Life Alliance coalition of caregiver organizations estimates a current shortage of 8,700 caregivers. The Minnesota Department Employment and Economic Development estimates a shortage of 16,000 caregivers by 2022.

Shortages of caregivers and low pay have caused some companies serving those with disabilities to close their facilities. Habilitative Services had to close a New Ulm home because it couldn’t find people to staff it. The company has a 40 percent turnover rate, and notes it just can’t pay enough to keep workers.

Considine’s bill aims to correct these problems by increasing pay for workers. His plan would cost $190 million for a 10 percent wage increase this year and $95 million for a 5 percent wage increase in 2018.

Given Minnesota’s near $1.5 billion surplus, it seems some investment in boosting reimbursement rates to support lagging caregiver pay is reasonable if not essential.

Minnesota has a history of taking care of its most vulnerable citizens. Bolstering the pay of caregivers would be a small step toward keeping the care in place that all of us will likely need someday.

— Mankato Free Press, Feb. 26

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