Michigan health aides to lose $2 raise without legislation


LANSING — At least 50,000 nursing home staff, home health aides and other direct care workers in Michigan will lose a $2 hourly pandemic pay raise next week if the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer do not enact COVID-19 relief aid.

Disability advocates sounded the alarm ahead of lawmakers’ return to session Tuesday.

Some Medicaid-funded caregivers, including those who help people in their homes, first got the wage hike last April through an order issued by the governor. The increase was extended in June to nurses, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists in nursing homes under a bipartisan law.

Sherri Boyd, executive director of The Arc Michigan, an advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said inaction “would have drastic consequences,” especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Direct care workers provide essential services, and their work is more important than ever. The clock is ticking, and we urge the Michigan Legislature to avoid this massive pay cut and support our most vulnerable,” she said.

The raise is due to end Sunday.

Advocates said the average starting hourly wage for a direct care worker is $11.44. On Feb. 11, Whitmer proposed keeping intact the $2 increase for the rest of this fiscal year and through the entire 2021-22 budget year, noting that the workforce is plagued by low wages and high turnover.

Supplemental COVID-19 relief legislation pending in the Senate would extend the pay hike through June and boost it by 25 cents an hour. A House-passed bill does not include funding for the higher wage, though it could be changed during legislative negotiations.

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