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  • Bill Would Raise Minimum Wage for Caregivers of People with Developmental Disabilities

    The Rhode Island General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) that would make provisions for in-state tuition for members of the military on active duty.

    [CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] The RI State House.

    Editor’s note: The following information was provided by the Legislative Press and Information Bureau.

    STATE HOUSE — Rep. Evan Patrick Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) and Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) have introduced legislation that would raise wages for direct service professionals who provide care to individuals with developmental disabilities.

    The legislation (2018-H 76802018-S 2478) would phase in a minimum wage for direct service professionals to $15 over a three-year period.

    “Direct service providers at the Trudeau Center and throughout the state provide dedicated high quality services to their consumers but struggle to provide for their own families at home,” said Representative Shanley, whose parents met while they were working at the Trudeau Center in Warwick. “I know how important the services these workers provide to enrich the lives of their consumers and our community. Rhode Island needs to show that we value the contribution of these workers in the budgets we pass.”

    Diane Anderson a direct service provider for 26 years at the Trudeau Center, said, “In our chosen profession as direct support professionals, we are charged with supporting some of our most fragile individuals, yet the pay rate is less than that of a high school student working after school at a convenience store.  The years of a below living wage to perform such challenging work has left our work force extremely low.”

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    Most direct service providers working in Rhode Island’s network of community agencies caring for adults with developmental disabilities are earning just over $11 per hour.

    “Rhode Island needs to make sure caregivers earn a living wage if we are going to attract and keep workers that provide consistent high quality services to individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Senator Satchell.

    A 2016 survey found a 33 percent turnover rate among DSPs in community agencies.

    “I love my consumers like they are family,” said Ryan Meegan from Warwick, who has been a DSP for almost 20 years. “The problem is I can’t take care of my two young sons on the wages I make. We need to raise wages for DSPs or we won’t be able to continue to provide quality care.”

    Home care aides who do similar work in Massachusetts and Connecticut recently won minimum starting rates of $15 per hour. A poll conducted in April by Fleming and Associates found that 69 percent of Rhode Islanders supported caregivers in long-term care earning at least $15 per hour.

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    The House Labor Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the legislation Thursday at the rise of the House (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House. The measure is cosponsored by Representatives Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Dist. 28, Coventry), Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) and Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence).

    The Senate bill, which is cosponsored by Senators Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), has been referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

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