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  • Maine House speaker, assistant minority leader join forces to help seniors and the workers who care for them

     by Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on May 29, 2015 unanimously approved a bipartisan measure to increase pay for in-home care workers. 

    Over 90 percent of seniors expressed the desire to continue to live in their homes instead of living in nursing facilities in Maine.

    Adelaide Baramburiye Manirakiza, a homecare worker from Westbrook, said at the public hearing that she loved caring for her clients, but the pay is not enough to support her family.

    “I have been working as a home care worker for the last seven years.  I work 48 hours a week, in a job that is hard and stressful, but I still don’t make enough to pay all my bills,” said Manirakiza.

    “We are doing right by our seniors and those who care for them,” said bill sponsor House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “A stronger direct care workforce will also make it possible for seniors to stay in their homes and remain independent. ”

    Eves worked on the proposal with House Minority Leader Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, who introduced a similar bill.  

    “We have a significant number of seniors living here in Maine and many of them want to stay in their homes,” said Espling. “These bills ensure that services are available to our seniors so families have the support they need to continue to care for their loved ones in the comfort of their homes.”

    The amended bill, LD 1350, combines both proposals from Eves and Espling. It would increase reimbursement rates to providers of in-home direct-care services by 66 percent to nearly $25 per hour.  

    The proposal to raise pay for direct care workers is one of the key components of Speaker Eves’ Keep ME Home initiative to help older adults in Maine live independently longer.

    During a public hearing on the proposal, in-home care workers and the seniors they care for urged support for the pay boost.

    “I have a wonderful homecare worker that helps me a few times a week.  This is what keeps me in my beloved home and gives me my independence,” said Ray Polley, a senior from Wales who receives in-home care every week in order to stay in his home.  “If I had to move out there would be a part of me that wouldn’t be there anymore.”

     The measure faces further votes in the House and Senate.