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Modest salary adjustment should come from surplus

Contact: Bill Yelenak
Phone: 617-428-3637 x122 (office) | 860-919-0369 (cell)

Now that the state has declared a surplus of over $723 million, the Providers' Council on Tuesday renewed its call for the administration to give a small salary adjustment to low-paid direct care workers who provide services on behalf of the Commonwealth but have gone nearly four years without even a basic cost-of-living increase.

In the FY '11 and FY '12 state budget process, the Council sought a Salary Reserve of $28 million for these 31,500 employees who make $40,000 and under, a raise for each worker of about $17 per week. While amendments were filed in the House and Senate to support a Salary Reserve, they were not adopted because of concerns about the economy.

State revenues for FY '11 were nearly $2 billion higher than revenues in FY '10 and $723 million ahead of the projected benchmark. While the administration hopes to deposit the FY '11 surplus in the rainy-day fund, the state also has a responsibility to help direct care workers who care for Massachusetts' most vulnerable on its behalf.

"The decision to put the surplus in the rainy-day fund or give a small salary adjustment to our workers shouldn't be an either/or proposition," said Providers' Council President and CEO Michael Weekes. "With a surplus of more than $723 million, there is enough money to make both a priority."

"With respect to the rainy day fund, our workers have already endured the stormy weather for the past four years. They have dealt with the rising costs of health insurance, food and utilities without a salary adjustment," Weekes added. "We hope the state will fund a salary reserve for this low-paid, critical workforce that provides essential services on its behalf."

The Providers' Council, also known as the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Inc., is the largest statewide membership association for community-based organizations providing social, rehabilitation, education and health care services.