There is a national crisis around direct support wages. We keep gathering data on this problem because it affects our cherished staff – we are part of that data. For the last 10 years or more we have pushed to do as much as we can to sustain wages and benefits. Each year has been more difficult.
One thing is true – the challenge affects all human service agencies.
There are many apparent causes of this complicated issue. Some are facts and some are myths.
Myth: Providers like KenCrest don’t care about their workers and hold back money that could go to wages.
Fact: Most providers – and definitely KenCrest – pay as much as we can to direct support staff. What limits the pay rates is the reimbursement we get and the rules that come with the money. Every year we spend our reimbursement to the absolute limit and most of that is in direct care wages. If there is anything “left over” it is the minimum amount necessary to keep our promises with the banks that support us.
Myth: Other providers pay more than KenCrest.
Fact: All providers are limited in what they can pay their staff. And all providers look at the total cost of wages and benefits as a “package.” Some pay more in wages and pay less for benefits like health insurance coverage. Some providers have better coverage of their costs based on their historical data. But overall we all have the same problem.
Myth: The government funders are not aware of the crisis and don’t care about it either.
Fact: Most providers and the professional associations they belong to regularly meet with government funders about the direct support wages crisis. KenCrest does. We advocate for the work that direct support staff perform every day. We are passionate advocates for the staff. Last week PAR, our Pennsylvania professional provider association, released a video to heighten awareness among funders and legislators. Click here to watch. The government response has been empathy, but there is pressure from all sides for a limited pot of government dollars.
Myth: Our elected officials do not want to hear from people in their districts about issues like this so it is a waste of time to call them.
Fact: The people we elect want to hear from you. They need to hear from you. As an agency, KenCrest talks face-to-face with a lot of elected officials a lot of the time. We know that they care about you and that they want to help. But they need to hear from you – lots of you.
KenCrest won’t stop battling for a living wage for our staff. Join us, and make your voice heard.