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Advocates fight pay cuts for caretakers of developmentally disabled
Governor cut $9M from pay increases for direct-care workers last year
Advocates for the developmentally disabled called on state lawmakers Thursday to restore $12 million in funding cuts made by Gov. Larry Hogan this year.
Several hundred developmentally disabled people, their advocates, family and friends descended upon the State House Thursday, asking lawmakers to keep their promise to address a growing waiting list for services and to restore cuts in wages to caretakers.
“The cuts to the direct support staff really do represent a clear and present danger to lives of Marylanders with intellectual disabilities,” said Mat Rice, public policy director of People on the Go.
The governor cut $9 million from the pay increase given to direct-care workers last year. The raise was designed to reduce turnover. Slashing the raise means that Walmart and fast-food jobs pay better.
“The direct support staff we hire have to be skilled, they have to be trained, they have to be certified oftentimes, and when those jobs become minimum wage, it means we are competing with far less stressful jobs,” said Laura Howell of the Maryland Association of Community Services.
Advocates are pressing lawmakers for another $3 million to help relieve a waiting list for services. More than 8,000 people are on the list, 125 of whom are considered in critical need.
Stephanie Peterson, whose 32-year-old son is one of those critical cases, said it has become difficult for her to work or do anything else but take care of him.
“He’s gotten more volatile. He’s gotten more aggressive. He bites, so the waiting with no end in sight, there’s no money to help people like my son,” Peterson said.
Last year, the community had a powerful ally with leverage. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mac Middleton held up the minimum wage increase bill until funding issues with direct-care workers were settled.
“What gives us hope is that the budget committees are really the ones who have to make budget decisions, and we have some great champions on the budget committees. So we are looking to them to restore the funding and keep the promise to Marylanders with disabilities,” Powell said.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford addressed the crowd on Thursday but did not say whether the administration would reconsider funding cuts.