STATEWIDE (WGME) – Direct care professionals who work with people with developmental disabilities in Maine say they’re angry with lawmakers, who they say failed to pass a funding bill for direct care workers.
“The governor’s made a lot of promises that this wouldn’t happen. And now it appears to be happening,” Randall Call, a direct care worker, said.
Direct care workers provide hands-on care for people with disabilities. As it stands, many work for little more than minimum wage.
“When we’re going to be paying less than McDonald’s, Burger King’s of the world, which is a valuable job, too. But we’re directly supporting individuals that need our help,” Call said.
Last year, the state budget provided for a 12-percent raise — but only for one year.
Democrats say both parties agreed to fund the raise for another year but that didn’t happen and the legislature adjourned, said Ann-Marie Mayberry of Group Main Stream.
“They promised. They promised that LD 967, the direct care bill, was first and foremost in their thoughts. And that it was going to get off the table.” she said.
Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said she tried to extend the legislative session to give lawmakers time to deal with unfinished business like this, but she said that House Republicans voted it down.
“We are sending the message to Maine people that the Legislature doesn’t know how to function, that we don’t take our job seriously, that we don’t take them seriously,” she said.
Direct care workers and the agencies they serve say they’re now facing the grim prospect of pay below minimum wage.
Bonnie Jean B of the Maine nonprofit organization OHI said the pay issue does not bode well for Mainers with disabilities.
“We will be closing homes. We will be discharging people. And it’ll spell the demise of a number of our agencies here in Maine,” she said.