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FL SAND, FDDC to Pitch Pay Fair for Care to Legislature

A reality of life for some people with disabilities is the fact that they need aide care to survive. If they are being honest, without this vital service, they would not be able to contribute to society in any form or fashion.

I am a prime example of this dilemma. The aide care system is vital but it is extremely flawed in many ways. The focus of this piece is on one flaw in particular: the disparity between the value of the services direct care workers provide and the low wage they receive.

The FL SAND organization recently voted on five legislative priorities, one of which deals directly with this issue. The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC), Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, and the Arc of Florida have launched a campaign around the priority titled “Pay Fair for Care.” The problem is eloquently summarized by the Arc when they say, “For families, the combination of concerns about the quality of care, less availability for care and fewer service options to access care poses a distinct threat to the health and safety of their loved ones.”

During both the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions, the FDDC, FL SAND, Arc, and other agencies worked on increasing iBudget waiver provider compensation. Although some progress was made, long-term, systems change efforts to increase direct care rates and reimbursement is critical. Because of stagnant, low wages – that have not effectively changed in more than a decade -- direct care work is quickly becoming transient employment, resulting in extremely high turnover, decreasing quality of care, and a shortage of workers.

Agencies that provide direct care services are drastically hobbled in what remuneration can be offered to their employees. Low reimbursement rates to these providers results in abysmal pay for their employees -- particularly abysmal when you consider the meaningful result of their work, a means for Floridians with disabilities to live independently.

The idea behind Pay Fair for Care is that support provider rates need to increase on a level equal to that of the increasing cost of living in the US in order to attract more and high quality workers. The provider I am currently using has a hard time keeping direct care workers because of the pay they are forced to offer their employees. As of now, it is not economically advantageous for a person to pursue a career as a direct care worker. Direct care work is seen as a transient job, something to do until a higher paying job becomes available.

This problem trickles down to affecting the quality of care workers provide whether intentionally or unintentionally. I can vouch for this correlation personally. I require a large amount of aide care and over the years I have had some excellent aides. However, too often lately, I have experienced quality issues that can be illustrated by the following example: I have a medical issue and after asking my aid for help -- more times than I can count – receive something like the following: “Give me a minute – let me finish watching this video or playing this game.” In an ideal situation this response would not be tolerated. However, in the real world, it must be tolerated. An outsider may ask why I put up with this? My answer is simple, there aren’t a lot of individuals lining up to be a direct care worker at the current rates of pay. And the problem is more acute in the more rural areas of the state.

In closing, provider rates are a crucial issue within the disability community and Pay Fair for Care is something that the Florida Legislature and advocates need to get behind quickly. Please visit this site for more information on the “Pay Fair for Care” campaign and how you can advocate for this important legislative priority.

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