Michigan caregivers got a $2 hourly boost in COVID. Should it be permanent?

By Robin Erb: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The sweet moments pop up in everyday tasks — a walk in the surprisingly warm winter sun, or silly smiles over a dinner plate. They’re what keep Holly VanVolkinburg coming back to a job she’s now held for 22 years.

But in a profession where starting pay is just over $11 an hour to help people with developmental disabilities, it’s tough for workers to cover groceries, lighting and heat bills, a mortgage or a car payment.

She’s lucky, she said.

As a supervisor in charge of two homes for people with developmental disabilities and nearly round-the-clock care for seven men and women in Allegan and Zeeland, her pay has climbed to just more than $21 an hour. But others? 

Many “can’t make it work,” she said. “They have bills to pay. They come and go. We lose them. It’s hard on everybody.”

As COVID tore through Michigan last year, direct care workers like VanVolkinburg got a bit of help. The state legislature bumped pay by $2 an hour last spring for these workers in skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities and those employed in programs for older Michiganders and those with developmental disabilities.

“Not only does that need to be permanent, but that is the bottom line,” said Emily Dieppa, director of workforce development for the Michigan office of PHI, a nonprofit that advocates for the nation’s direct care workers. “If anything, it needs to be expanded, and it needs to be more than $2 so that it’s an actual living wage for people.”

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