Leo’s Letter: A Major Update For Our Workforce [Update: March 2]

It is important to once again give a BIG THANK YOU to Governor Baker’s administration on the release of rate regulations which took place on Friday, February 21. But I felt that the blog I sent out on February 28 could lead to misunderstandings for our readers due to its initial sentences regarding the pay rates of staff.

It’s important to note that salaries among direct support staff vary from $13 per hour range to $15 per hour range (in fact, some “overnight asleep” staff roles may be paid at minimum wage).  The increase that the POS Reserve that the Governor has put in his budget will bring an average of a 10% increase to the residential program rates.  While my blog stated that we are getting closer to a living wage, this increase is a major first step to that goal. We do not want to further confuse families and other readers in our attempt to make the funding process more transparent.

Providers vary in their compensation and benefits provided to staff. Some may pay more to front-line managers, while others may focus on entry level pay. Providers also must address increased benefits costs such as annual health plan premiums, which affect the dollars available for wages.  In our blog, I estimate (through outreach to the field) $15 per hour as a “blended average” for the lowest-paid direct support staff, not a constant rate across the Commonwealth.  Our estimates provide the big picture, but the specifics will vary based on how providers structure their staffing and the systems (supervision, consulting clinicians, quality assurance, information technology, etc.) they must institute to be responsive to persons served.

With a government estimated average 10.2% rise in rates in ALTR (community residential services), we estimate that 70% of that rate increase could go to personnel costs, leaving the balance for other costs that are part of the rate configuration such as occupancy, utilities, supplies, transportation, etc.  Providers do feel the workforce crisis as families do and will allocate as much as possible to recruit workers.

Background: In our section of human services, this year’s rates will be in community residential services (termed ALTR) at the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Mass. Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and Mass. Commission for the Blind (MCB) with an estimated overall rate impact of 10.2% (projected at $125 million of the $160 million presently in the line item 1599-6903). The Arc continues to advocate for more dollars in the reserve, because other EOHHS services are faced with a workforce shortage too.

MassHealth programs like PCA, AFC, Day Habilitation, or Nursing are not part of the POS process, but these programs do have their own rate process.  We will work on planning further advocacy for all the additional services sometime in June.

During my presentations this March (list here), I will provide more background on the different ways that support services are funded whether through the DDS or MassHealth as well as related items.

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