By Ramona du Houx
Maine House on June 13, 2015 gave final approval to a bipartisan measure to increase pay for in-home care workers by unanimous consent. The vote proved that Maine lawmakers can still work together for the health and well being of the state's citizens.
“Lawmakers came together to do 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. 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.”
Adelaide Baramburiye Manirakiza, a homecare worker from Westbrook, said 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.
The measure faces further votes in the Senate.