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'5% Campaign' seeks pay boost for care providers

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Advocates for Minnesota's elderly and disabled say the state can now afford to pay higher compensation for the workers who care for them following cuts and pay freezes that they've absorbed in recent years.

The Duluth News Tribune reported that a coalition plans to pressure the Minnesota Legislature for an increase in state funding for disability and adult care services during next year’s legislative session. MPR reported that the coalition kicked off the “5 Percent” campaign on Tuesday in Duluth. It will seek a 5 percent wage hike for the 112,000 Minnesotans who provide direct services in the community and group homes. Advocates insist that the hike a will keep direct pay for support professionals at a reasonable level and reduce the turnover rates.

State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the 5 percent boost would match the 5 percent raise the Legislature passed for nursing home workers in the last session. He said a higher rate should have been addressed last year because the median wage for caregivers who work with the elderly and disabled has declined by 10 percent in the past 10 years.

The increase in funding would cost about $70 million, Huntley said.

Access Press, which bills itself as Minnesota disability community's news source, said the raise is needed to reverse years of funding cuts. The news account said thatpaper said that workers who provide services for people with disabilities and the elderly have not received costs of living increases for five years in a row. The paper quotes Sam Ubah, a caregiver who has worked with people with disabilities since 1998, and holds down three jobs working 57 hours a week.

“Most direct support workers make about $11 an hour, and need more than one job just to pay their bills,” he said

The coalition will ask the Legislature to authorize the funding when the session begins in January, with the goal of it taking effect on July 1, 2014.

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