Salary Reserve, Council highlighted in State House News!
The State House News Service wrote a brief Friday about the $20m Salary Reserve for human services workers, an amendment that was approved unanimously by the Senate late Thursday night. They also spoke with Providers' Council President and CEO Michael Weekes about the amendment. The text of the brief from SHNS is below.
For questions, please contact Bill Yelenak at 617.428.3637 x122 or via e-mail.
STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – AFTERNOON EDITION - FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2012
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
SENATE OKAYS $20 MIL RESERVE FOR HUMAN SERVICE WORKERS
A $20 million salary reserve added to the $32.4 billion Senate budget Thursday will help boost the wages of more than 31,000 human service workers who advocates say do not receive annualized raises associated with fixed state contracts. The reserve amendment was added to the budget based on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). Senate budget chief Stephen Brewer said Friday that about $74 million in spending had been added to the budget through floor amendments, with the spending made possible by unspecified amounts of federal reimbursements and state revenue forecast updates that apparently were not available before the Senate released its budget earlier this month. According to the Providers’ Council, a group that represents human service workers, the reserve account will provide some workers with their first salary increase in five years. In a statement, council president Michael Weekes said many human service workers “may be a paycheck or two away from needing” public assistance. After the full Senate budget was approved Friday, Senate President Therese Murray described listed the salary reserve and efforts to keep Department of Mental Health beds open at Taunton Hospital among the “compassionate” initiatives in the Senate budget. Murray said the reserve represented a “small amount of money” and would provide a one-time boost in salaries for workers such as personal care attendants who care for disabled individuals. “I hope it means something to them,” Murray said. Council officials say they plan to encourage House budget negotiators to agree to the Senate’s reserve account language in upcoming conference talks. Workers received $10 million for wage increases in a supplemental spending bill approved in 2011. Weekes said the $20 million reserve could increase the weekly earnings of human service workers by between $12 and $15. Starting direct care works earn about $12 an hour, a rate that Weekes said is similar to employees in the fast food industry. Weekes called passage of the Senate amendment “really good news for people who work really hard” caring for others.