July 9, 2021

Fay bill to address long term care workforce included in annual state budget

AUGUSTA – Funding for a bill sponsored by Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, to improve the pay of long-term care workers was included in the biennial budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last week.

Rep. Jessica Fay
Fay’s bill, LD 1573, An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Study Long-term Care Workforce Issues, calls for increasing the reimbursement rates for wages of frontline long term care workers to 125 percent of the minimum wage and ties the new rates to any future increases in the minimum wage.

It also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to review the rates every five years, and report back to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee annually on the progress being made to retain long-term care workers.

The bill also replaces the term “direct care worker” with “essential support worker” to include behavioral health workers and those who provide care across many different settings, including home care and supportive living. Both the bill’s funding and its associated language were included in the budget.

“It is really gratifying that this increase is going to become a reality. Older people, people with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities and folks with mental health issues are often not considered or are considered a burden,” Fay said. “When we have undervalued workers caring for undervalued members of society, we have a system that works for neither. This change will help show these workers that they and their efforts are truly valued.”

The bill grew out of the work of the Commission to Study Long-term Care Workforce Issues, which was established by the 129th Legislature to examine ways to alleviate a chronic shortage and high turnover of workers caring for older adults and those with disabilities.

As the House chair of the commission, Fay saw first-hand many of the issues stemming from long term care workers forced to scramble to find alternative ways to support their families as costs increased, but wages remained essentially the same for years.

Fay is serving her third term in the Maine House and represents part of Casco, part of Poland and part of Raymond. She serves on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. <

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