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Personal Care Workers In Maine Get Raises 3 Months Earlier Than Expected

Gov. Janet Mills says she is accelerating by three months a pay raise for personal care workers in Maine.

In a press release, Mills notes that Mainers in need of personal care, including the elderly, may face higher risks from the novel coronavirus. So she is boosting pay, starting April 1, for some 20,000 personal support specialists, home health aides, private-duty nurses and others workers in the field.

Laurie Belvin, executive director for the Homecare and Hospice Alliance of Maine, says personal care workers are playing a key role in keeping vulnerable people away from potentially dangerous group settings.

“Whether it’s a hospital to get acute care or into nursing home or residential care where there is a higher risk of exposure to COVID. So keeping them at home where they are safer, where they want to be and continue to do the care is critical, and in order to do that we need to keep these caregivers employed, and give them the wage to keep them,” she says.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services says $6.3 million in state and federal funds will provide for the extra three months of higher state reimbursements to personal care businesses to reflect current market rates. DHHS Director Of Communications Jackie Farwell says that will increase reimbursements to providers anywhere from 24 to 30 percent above their current rates. And she adds that the employers have authority to determine how to allocate funding to support the salaries of their workers.

Mills also announced that the state’s Meals on Wheels program would get an $800,000 boost thanks to a new federal allotment.

Updated 3:15 p.m. April 2, 2020: This post has been updated with information on the value of the pay increase.