News Council testifies at committee hearing on Fair Pay for Comparable Work bill

Providers’ Council President/CEO Michael Weekes,  state legislators and executives from several member organizations testified in favor of the Council’s Fair Pay for Comparable Work bill on Monday during a hearing with the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

Weekes told committee members that the pay disparity between community-based human services workers and state employees who do the same type of work has continually gotten worse, making it “nearly impossible” for providers to recruit and retain high-quality workers.

“The state reported that they’re paying an average weekly wage of $1,274 to state employees in the individual and family services area, while the community-based human services sector reported paying average wages of just $548,” Weekes said. “This is a pay gap of more than 130 percent, which is an insurmountable challenge to our workforce crisis.”

Testimony in support of the bill was also provided by Sen. Cindy Friedman, Rep. Kay Khan, Pathlight Executive Director Ruth Banta, Center for Human Development President/CEO Jim Goodwin and Viability President/CEO Colleen Holmes, as well as by two Bridgewell employees.

Banta said that four of Pathlight’s nurses have left to work at state-operated homes in the past 18 months, primarily because her organization is funded by the state at a rate of $31 per hour for a nurse, but the state pays its own nurses between $34 and $57 an hour.

“We just really want the level playing field for wages,” Banta said. “We know we’ve got the difference in benefits and all these other things, but to have such wage discrepancies for the very similar work just really puts us at a disadvantage with the state, who are our primary purchaser — They’re our regulators and our competitors.”

If ultimately passed as is, the bill — filed by Khan and Friedman — would prompt a detailed study of the issue and phase in higher reimbursement rates in order to eliminate the pay disparity by 2027.

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