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Letter: Support direct care staff in area

I am writing to express my concern about the shortage of staff who work alongside individuals with disabilities in Albert Lea and throughout Minnesota. The budget for Gov. Mark Dayton did not allocate funds to support wage increases for direct support staff in 2017.

I work at Cedar Valley Services in Albert Lea, a nonprofit organization that provides work training to adults with disabilities in our community. Cedar Valley provides assistance to 150 people with disabilities in Freeborn County. Cedar Vally also employs 45 staff who work alongside individuals with disabilities. Staff that assist people with disabilities have demanding, highly skilled professional jobs whom need a wage increase. Our reimbursement rate from the state of Minnesota is tied to staff wages. The rate has not kept up with inflation and rising costs over the past decade.

Because of the lagging reimbursement rate, and lower staff wages, there is a serious workforce shortage for programs like Cedar Valley in rural Minnesota. Currently, there are over 8,700 unfilled direct care worker and staff jobs in Minnesota. This shortage creates a strain on our current employees and it is a struggle to keep up with the day to day operations of the program.

I want to thank Rep. Peggy Bennett for her support with sponsoring bill HF 873. The bill is asking the legislators to pass a 4 percent wage increase for all direct support staff. This increase will ensure our staff has a better quality of life.

With the state’s $1 billion budget surplus, I hope there is enough money to invest in programs that provide services to people with disabilities without needing to shift funding or raising taxes.

Please contact Gov. Dayton and ask him to support a 4 percent wage increase for more than 80,000 direct support staff statewide.

Garry Hart

Cedar Valley Services Inc.