“This Increase is Absolutely Amazing:” Caregivers Celebrate $ 15 Minimum Wage

COLORADO SPRINGS – Some frontline workers caring for aging adults and people with disabilities will get a pay rise next year.

The state’s joint budget committee voted 5-1 to approve a minimum wage of $ 15 per hour for direct care workers funded with state dollars working in home and community settings. This applies to personal care workers, housewives, direct support professionals and others.

“I’m happy because we deserve the pay for the type of work we do because we take care of individuals,” said Eric Taylor.

Taylor has been a caregiver for five years.

“I like helping others and keeping their independence,” Taylor said. “When I started to become a caregiver, the salary was quite low. This increase is going to be absolutely amazing and it could help other people get started in caregiving. “

She says the increase makes her feel appreciated for the hard work she does.

“When there is a salary, but also incentives like pizza, gift cards and vaccines,” Taylor said.

“Every Coloradan should be able to live and enjoy the Colorado we love and I am proud that we take care of those who care for our loved ones. Colorado has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the country, so it’s important to make sure we can hire and retain caregivers for today and for years to come. In Colorado, we value our workers, so I fully support the move to a minimum wage of $ 15 for caregivers, ”Governor Jared Polis said.

National data shows that the turnover of the direct care workforce is 82%.

“These are low wages, it can be physically and emotionally hard work, and trying to meet people wherever they are,” said Bonnie Silva, of the Politics and Funding Department. Colorado health care.

The department has tried to find new ways to retain and attract workers, including using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We were able to come up with a plan, it’s a $ 530 million plan to invest in our system and support these workers. Of that $ 530 million plan, we are allocating $ 280 million to the workforce. , and of that $ 280 million, we’re spending $ 260 million on salary and rate increases, ”Silva said.“ On top of that, we’ve provided rate increases to vendors so they can look at the compression salary. We know there are discrepancies in terms of tenure. “

Silva says the ministry is also spending an additional $ 20 million to find a long-term solution to support the efforts.

“A training pool that will help these workers access free training, develop a standardized curriculum that can be used statewide, and an online resource center where they can view openings. We also plan to work with the Ministry of Labor and Employment, the community college system and the Ministry of Higher Education so that we can create career opportunities for this workforce, ”said Silva.

In addition to developing initiatives to fill the gaps in care in rural communities.

“How do we help rural communities provide shared care systems,” said Silva.

Caregivers are anxiously awaiting higher wages.

“We would love to go on vacation, we can set aside 25% or even 50% now,” Taylor said.

The Department of Health Care Policy and Funding expects the salary increase to be implemented Jan. 1, but rate increases for providers will begin in the coming weeks. As American Rescue Plan Act funds expire after 2024, the ministry says it is committed to identifying funds to ensure the long-term sustainability of this effort. They will pursue all avenues to continue supporting these increases in workers’ remuneration, while minimizing the fiscal impact on the general state fund.

The federal government has shown through several recent legislative proposals that it is also invested in strengthening the direct care workforce. An example is the Better Care for Better Jobs Act. This bill is now part of the budget reconciliation process. It includes a proposal to provide substantial financial support to state Medicaid agencies to stabilize the direct care workforce. This effort includes significant funding that could be used to increase payments, resulting in higher wages for direct care workers.

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