Colleen Allen and Mark McWilliams: Why $2-an-hour wage boost for caregivers matters to other workforce sectors

By Colleen Allen and Mark McWilliams: For Complete Post, Click Here…

For many Michigan families, mental illness and developmental disabilities are a fact of life.

Their daily activities include providing high levels of personal care for a loved one and, very often, they find they can’t do it all on their own.

That is where our state’s direct care workers come in.

These 50,000 individuals provide personal care, emotional support and vocational training to more than 100,000 of Michigan’s most vulnerable residents.

Their work makes it possible for family members to remain employed and contribute to the state’s economy while their family members receive the support they need.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s direct care workers are not compensated as well as they should be.

In fact, many of them make less than they could if they were serving fast food or restocking store shelves.

Our state’s direct care workers earn an average starting wage of $10.70 per hour. With retail outlets and fast-food restaurants paying starting wages between $11 and $14 per hour, on average, we can see there is an obvious gap.

Add in a lack of health care or other benefits to many direct care workers, and it’s easy to see why many leave the profession very quickly. Today, direct care worker turnover is 37 percent — and it’s increasing every day.

And there couldn’t be a worse time to be losing these workers. Many Michiganders are facing a higher level of mental stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors associated with the difficult year our state has experienced. We need more supports, not less.

That is why our state’s leaders acted to support direct care workers this past spring.

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