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New Maine Law Boosts Pay for Long-Term Care Workers

Adam Martin, Wes Bower
Chris O'Meara
In this photo taken Dec. 13, 2010, quadriplegic Adam Martin, right, works with physical therapist Wes Bower at the Sarasota Health and Rehabilitation Center, the nursing home where he lives.

A proposal to raise the pay for long-term care workers has been signed into law.

The measure boosts pay to 125% of the minimum wage for what are now called "essential support workers" — those who care for people with disabilities, behavioral health challenges, or who are older.

Jess Maurer, the executive director of the Maine Council on Aging, says low pay and a shortage of workers have been a perennial challenge.

"And so it creates a new strategy to say we're going to raise all boats at once for these workers so that we're not competing for these workers within these different kinds of provider types. And we're starting to value them for the work that they do," she says.

Under the new law, the state is also required to review pay rates every five years.

Maurer says the proposal was one of the primary recommendations from a state commission that studied long-term care workforce issues.