It is vital that the Maine Legislature and Gov. Janet Mills invest in the tens of thousands of Maine workers who provide older people, people with intellectual disabilities and autism, and people with mental health and substance use challenges, with vital daily supports and services to thrive in their homes and community. The state can do this by fully funding LD 1573, “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Study Long-term Care Workforce Issues,” in the FY22/23 biennial budget.
LD 1573 values essential support workers for the role they play in the health of our economy and people by improving pay for all workers at once. It will help providers to support wages above minimum wage and be able to compete for workers in this tight labor market. It will create thousands of good-paying jobs, narrow gender and racial pay gaps, and expand overall household income in Maine. I respectfully implore the Maine Legislature and Gov. Mills to please act to fully fund LD 1573. We have a significant state surplus, and hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Individuals and families turn to us in their time of greatest need. We want to ensure we remain viable and are able to continue offering hope and help. Now is the time, and they have the magic wand.
While the minimum wage has been increasing, driving competitive hourly wage rates up, the amount of reimbursement has been stagnant. This does not lend itself to sustaining a trained, skilled workforce to meet the needs of individuals with mental illness, substance misuse, and intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve across Lewiston, Oxford, Rumford, Farmington, Lisbon, Bridgton and Sabattus. The pandemic has compounded the state’s pre-existing rate and workforce shortage crisis to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For the workforce I manage at Tri-County Mental Health Services, the rates of reimbursement from state Medicaid have not increased in more than a decade, while the cost of living has increased year after year.
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