Rep. Shanley, Sen. DiPalma call for $15 minimum wage for caregivers in community programs
STATE HOUSE — Family members of Rhode Islanders living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, direct support professionals (DSPs), labor leaders, and legislators converged on the State House today, calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation that offers DSPs a living wage in line with the services they provide.
The legislation (2019-H 5338), sponsored by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) and co-sponsored by 48 other House members, including Democrats and Republicans, would move DSPs to a $15 minimum wage over the next two years. A companion Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) will be introduced soon.
Senator DiPalma stated, "The selfless and dedicated care and work that is delivered by our state's caregivers is a vital service to some of Rhode Island's most vulnerable citizens. Yet, while these individuals care for our friends and loved ones, they are experiencing tremendous financial hardship resulting from less than adequate wages. It is time that we recognize the valuable contributions they make to our society and give these caregivers the living wage that they deserve.”
"Direct service providers throughout the state provide dedicated high quality services to their consumers but struggle to provide for their own families at home," said Representative Shanley, whose parents met while they were working at the Trudeau Center in Warwick. "I know the importance of the services these workers provide to enrich the lives of their consumers and our community. Rhode Island needs to show that we value the contribution of these workers."
Services and funding for programs that support individuals with developmental disabilities have been cut drastically over the years – and the U.S Department of Justice recently found that Rhode Island needs to improve these services. Program consolidations have led to individuals with different needs being grouped together, making it harder for consumers to receive the appropriate level of attention they deserve.
Additionally, direct support professionals who serve Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities are paid an abysmal $11 to $12 per hour, leading to a 33% turnover rate among DSPs in community agencies. Without a significant wage increase for Rhode Island caregivers in 2019, retaining and attracting a dedicated workforce in this field will become increasingly difficult in light of a low unemployment rate and Massachusetts moving to a $15 minimum wage for all workers.
“Staff are working two and three jobs and still fall short on making ends meet,” said Anna Landolfi, a direct support professional at J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center. “I work for three additional agencies in order to pay my bills. Staff work short-handed every day. There needs to be adequate compensation for staff that have remained loyal through all of the budget cuts and years of no raises or health benefit increases. There needs to be incentive in order to keep our staff with knowledge of our folks, instead of the constant recycling of new staff. It is confusing and upsetting to our folks every time there is a change of staff. Please, I urge you to pass the DSP wage increase.”
Nancy Tumidajski, a Direct Support Professional at Blackstone Valley ARC for 28 Years, stated, “I love my consumers but believe that for too long Rhode Island has not valued the contribution and work direct support professionals provide. While we help enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities, their communities, and their families, many of my co-workers struggle to provide for their own families when they get home.”
A 2018 public opinion poll conducted by Fleming and Associates found that 84% of Rhode Islanders support a $15 minimum wage for direct support professionals.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903