Montana caregivers push for wage hike for those who help disabled
HELENA — Caregivers and advocates pressed Monday for raises for 3,000 people who care for about 5,800 developmentally disabled people across Montana, while Republican lawmakers who previously rejected a similar proposal appeared ready to support this one.
The caregivers provide services for people with disabilities in their homes and in group homes by feeding them, cleaning for them, driving them to appointments and taking care of other things that they can’t do themselves. Caregivers earn an average starting salary of $10.14 an hour.
Those who testified before the House Appropriations Committee said the low wages have caused high turnover, which creates problems for the disabled who receive services from a different person every few months. Many of those who stick with their jobs qualify for public assistance because of the low pay.
Justin Harvey, a caregiver for Quality Life Concepts in Great Falls, said he has taken care of the disabled, people with traumatic brain injuries and dementia, and Alzheimer’s patients for seven years. He has a medical certification, but he earns about $3 an hour less than a person working in the deli at a grocery store chain.