Senate Bill 280, also known as the “Fight for Fifteen” Bill,will be taken up for a vote out of the Senate Finance Committee very soon. Included in the bill are increases in funding for Developmental Disability Community Services that would ensure wages for Direct Support Professionals keep pace as the new minimum wage is phased in. The bill calls for a 7% increase for DD Community Services in FY20, followed by 5.5% in FY21, FY22, and FY23, and a final increase of roughly 7% in FY24.
House Bill 166 Amendments
The House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee held a work session at 6:30 PM on February 25 to discuss a smaller work group’s recommended amendments to the “Fight for Fifteen” Bill (HB166)
Several amendments to different sections of the bill were presented for consideration. Here is a summary of the amendments that passed out of committee:
1. Reduce the DD Community Provider (Services) reimbursement rate from 7%, 5.5%, 5.5% etc. in the bill and replace with language to provide funding to all of the Medicaid providers “at a rate that is 1% above the DLS recommendation for funding” increases. For reference, the DLS recommended a 2% increase this year for DD as we had no mandated increase in legislation. Mandates for Mental Health (Keep the Door Open Act) made their DLS recommended increase 3%. Assisted Living, Medical Day, and Home Health were also 3%. If we add 1% to each of these, the increase in the bill for DD Community Services would reduce to 3% each year, while the other Medicaid providers would be at ~4%.
2. Restored exemptions to the MW law (kept current law related to wage treatment of agricultural, tipped wage and seasonal workers)
3. Delayed phase-in of increases to January of each year and lengthened the runway. The new proposed schedule for increases and amounts of increases per year would be:
- $11.00 January 1, 2020
- $11.75 January 1, 2021
- $12.50 January 1, 2022
- $13.25 January 1, 2023
- $14.00 January 1, 2024
- $15.00 January 1, 2025
4. Added “pause” option: Every year, the Board of Public Works (BPW) will look at the seasonally adjusted employment data to compare 1st 6 months of the year with the 2nd 6 months. If the seasonally adjusted employment % is negative, BPW could the decide to then look at the performance of the state revenue and take the action to implement a “one-time only” pause to the schedule to increase the minimum wage. This would be decided ~October of each year. This would provide an “off ramp” similar to NY and California MW bills. Once the pause is used, it cannot be used again. If any year is paused, there is NO INCREASE in funding that year for Medicaid providers.
5. Workers under the age of 18 can be paid at a wage that is 85% of the minimum wage.
6. Struck indexing from the bill (the MW increases will stop at $15 after January 1, 2025) 7. Tip credit. Recommend leaving tipped base wage at $3.63
What Steps to Take Next
We know the Senate Finance Committee will be meeting soon to move the Fight for $15 (SB280) out of the committee. We ask that you PLEASE contact members of the Finance Committee now, through the links in the “, so they know how important it is to keep the DD funding in the bill.
Here is a sample message:
Dear Senator (_______),
Please support the “Fight for $15” bill (SB280) with mandated funding for Developmental Disability community services as included in the bill. This is critically important to me as a (parent/person with disabilities/member of The Arc/Provider of community services for people with I/DD because…… (insert personalized information here)
(Points to include:)
- We are facing the worst workforce crisis of all time. Our state reimbursement rate for DDA community services is the lowest it has been in a lifetime.
- Over 1/2 of Direct Support Professionals don’t make it to 1 year of employment.
- out of 3 Direct Support Professionals don’t last in their jobs more than 6 months and the majority of these separations are voluntary on the part of the employee; Direct Support Professionals are hired by DD community services providers and people who self-direct their services, the jobs are stressful, the wages are low, and they are leaving to take less stressful, higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
- Without this vital workforce, services for people with developmental disabilities and their families will not exist.
- Raising the minimum wage without ensuring adequate funding for DD community services will jeopardize the ability of providers to continue to provide supports to people with developmental disabilities.
- The reduction of DD funding in the bill that was passed in the House would only deepen our DSP workforce crisis if enacted into law and would truly decimate our system of supports. We need the Senate to provide a life-line by correcting this grievous mistake.
- We are counting on you to do the right thing and protect funding for DD Community Services as originally proposed in SB280.
Please click HERE for a graph which illustrates the decline in the provider rate “wage factor” over the years, and a projection of the effects HB166 (if passed into law) would have on the DD community.
How to read the graph:
In 2006, our rates contained a wage funding factor that was 69% above the state minimum wage. In FY19, that wage factor sits at a mere 20% above minimum wage. The crisis created by our historically inadequate funding will only get worse if something isn’t done NOW.
The wage factor is not the same as a starting wage. It is the amount providers receive to pay DSPs regardless of whether the DSP was just hired today, or has worked with people with disabilities for 20 years. To account for wage compression, providers must start DSPs below the wage factor amount, so there is room to pay other DSPs (who have worked the longest or have more credentials) at an amount that is higher than this factor. The closer the wage factor moves to the minimum wage, the less room there is for wage compression adjustments. The hours are long, the work is stressful, and when providers cannot offer competitive wages, staff are leaving voluntarily to work in less stressful jobs for the same amount or more pay.
Come to Developmental Disabilities Action Night: Monday, March 4, 3 PM to 8 PM
Please note that you don’t have to be in Annapolis for the entire 5 hour time period. We will be on hand with our DD Coalition partners to provide information to all attendees to assist you with your meetings with your representatives.
It would be wonderful if you could make appointments nowwith your Senators to meet on Monday late afternoon/evening, but please plan to attend DD Action Night even if you do not have a meeting; we want to have a large visible presence so they know the power of our grassroots!
Until then, please make your plans and SPREAD THE WORD! You may schedule your meetings for Monday with your Senators through their email contacts and phone numbers below.
Who to Contact
The following Senators are part of the Finance Committee considering the “Fight for Fifteen” Bill. Please click on the email links to schedule appointments for Monday afternoon/evening or find phone numbers to call next to each name.
- Delores Kelley, Chair (410) 841-3606
- Brian Feldman, Vice Chair (410) 841-3169
- Malcolm Augustine (410) 841-3745
- Pamela Beidle (410) 841-3593
- Joanne Benson (410) 841-3148
- Antonio Hayes (410) 841-3656
- Stephen Hershey Jr. (410) 841-3639
- J.B. Jennings (410) 841-3706
- Katherine Klausmeier (410) 841-3620
- Benjamin Kramer (410) 841-3151
- Edward Reilly (410) 841-3568
Even if your Senator is not part of the Finance Committee, we encourage you to take the opportunity on Monday night to educate them on the “Fight for 15” Bill and what we need! Find your Senator’s contact information here.