To the editor:
Caregivers who provide Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) to people with disabilities and the elderly shoulder a great deal of responsibility in their jobs, taking on responsibility for health, safety (which can include managing challenging behaviors), quality of life, and for many caregivers, the very lives of people they are supporting. Yet, many caregivers can barely afford to meet the needs of their own families on wages they receive.
In 2013, the Direct Support Professional (DSP) and Caregiver's average hourly wage in Minnesota is $11.55 state-wide. The yearly earnings at this rate exceed the Federal Poverty Guideline by only $500 for a family of four. The median wage for these workers decreased 5 percent from 2002-2012 while inflation increased 28 percent over the same period. Although $11.55 per hour may not seem too bad when compared to other low-wage jobs in our area, that figure is skewed by metro wages which are typically a bit higher. In rural areas, starting wage is rarely that high. In fact, for many of our older services, the starting wage is barely $9 per hour. The dedicated people who choose this career do so because they love it, not because they plan to get rich. However, love it or not, they still need to work in jobs that allow them to provide for their own families. Frequently, caregivers have to work a 2nd or 3rd job just to make ends meet. Even more concerning is the impact on those receiving services. Low wages lead to high staff turnover, lack of skilled workers, and difficulty building trusting relationships when people do not know how long new staff will stay. Over and over again, the responsibility for balancing the budget has been placed on the backs of people with disabilities, the elderly, and the families and caregivers who support them. The time has come to say "Enough!"
The 5% Campaign is a nonpartisan coalition of Minnesotans working to ask state legislators for a 5 percent rate increase for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) in 2014. The Campaign maintains that life in the community is the first and best option for people with disabilities and older Minnesotans as well as their families, workers, and our state as a whole. Legislation is currently being developed on this critical issue for the 2014 Legislative Session that begins on February 25, 2014. Keep in mind, the 5 percent increase in funding that is being requested is not a raise. The 5 percent increase is merely an attempt to bring funding closer to the level where it should be so that the most vulnerable among us can continue to receive quality services by staff who are paid a livable wage.
Every one of us is just one illness, one stroke, or one car accident away from being dependent on someone else to care for us. If it were you, your spouse, your parent, or your child, would you not want the people who cared for you or your loved one to be skilled, committed, and fairly compensated for the very important work they do? Not only do caregivers deserve it for the hard work they perform, but the people they are supporting deserve to be cared for by highly skilled, trained, and committed staff as well. Please join the 5% Campaign and show your support by "Liking" The 5% Campaign Facebook Page, follow at @5PercentMN on Twitter, or contact your legislators and Governor Dayton and let them know that you support and are asking for them to support a 5% increase in funding to Home and Community Based Services in Minnesota.
Curt Bossert, Regional Administrator
Laure Verdoes, Lifestyle Specialist Coordinator
Julie Bedow, Lifestyle Specialist
Jeff Anderson, Team Lead
Dianne Beckendorf, Team Lead
Heather Bestge, Team Lead
Stacey Buysse, Team Lead
Shannon Clark, Team Lead
Mandy Mellenthin, Team Lead
Kristin Neet-Holien, Team Lead
Sherry Olson, Team Lead
Laura Swedzinski, Team Lead
LuAnn Thielges, Team Lead
Marcy Moe, Clerical Support
Habilitative Services, Inc., Marshall Minnesota