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Effectively caring for people who have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities is an important job—one that takes a huge logistical, personal and economic toll.
Michigan’s Direct Care Workers provide much-needed personal care, training, emotional support and respite. They work around the clock to help people with disabilities live and work in their communities, addressing challenges in ways that require tremendous physical and intellectual strength. They are NOT state workers.
Theirs is a singular mission: to ensure the people in their care can achieve their greatest potential, no matter how big the obstacles are.
But while nearly a million Michigan residents rely on the value Direct Care Workers provide, members of the profession are becoming harder to find, due to low pay, inadequate (or non-existent) benefits, and limited professional growth opportunities.
Because Direct Care Workers are funded through Medicaid, their employers receive a finite allocation of funding to sustain critical state services to our most vulnerable populations and can’t simply raise their prices in order to pay the workers better. Instead, they must continue to compete for workers with places like Starbucks and Walmart.
This is not a new issue for Michigan. We have been discussing the crisis for this workforce for a number of years going back to the Snyder administration. During COVID-19, federal pandemic relief dollars helped increase DCW funding temporarily. When those dollars vanish altogether on Feb. 28, many of today’s Direct Care Workers will experience a significant pay cut. Many of them will increase their reliance on public assistance programs – resulting in a corresponding increase cost to the state.
How Policy Leaders Can Help
A continuation of the $2.00 per hour increase through the end of FY 21 would cost $100 million of state general fund money, which would be matched by $260 million in federal funds.
We urge Michigan leaders to sustain this funding, at minimum, and consider other options for providing compensation that reinforces the value of Direct Care Workers and represents a more competitive wage in today’s job market.