By Gina Macris
(This article has been corrected. Please see the note at the end.)
In her State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 17, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said that her budget for the next fiscal year will include a second round of raises for home health care workers and those who provide direct support for adults with developmental disabilities.
Raimondo said that in 2016, the state gave homecare and direct care workers “their first raise in nearly a decade.” She acknowledged the leadership of Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed in that effort.
“And I propose that we give them another raise this year. It will make us more competitive with Massachusetts and help us make sure we have the highest quality people taking care of our Rhode Island families,” Raimondo said.
In 2016, the Governor and the General Assembly faced pressure from the U.S. District Court to put more money into developmental disability services.
After an evidentiary hearing in the spring, Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. ruled that there was not enough money in the state budget to comply with provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act which require community integration of individuals with disabilities. At the same time, he did not say how much money was lacking,
The General Assembly ultimately approved a budget amendment submitted by Raimondo that added $5 million for developmental disability wages, raising the hourly rate from $10.82 to $11.18. Half is Medicaid money and half is state revenue.
Rhode Island’s minimum wage is $9.60 an hour, although Raimondo signaled on Tuesday that her budget will contain a proposal to raise it to $10.50 an hour.
On Tuesday, Raimondo gave no fiscal details of her plan for raises. She will unveil her budget proposal tomorrow, Jan. 19, at 4 p.m.
But her speech indicates that she has at least opened the door to a call from State Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown, for a five-year commitment to increase the hourly wage of developmental disability workers to $15.
DiPalma has asked the Governor to add 76 cents in the average hourly rate to increase it to $11.94 in the next budget. That would mark the first installment in the five-hear plan, according to DiPalma. For developmental disability workers alone, he said, the cost would be an estimated $6.8 million in fiscal 2018..
DiPalma, first vice-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, unveiled his so-called “15 in 5” plan last October with the backing of Paiva Weed and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Daniel DaPonte.
(This article has been updated to say that wage increases for direct care workers proposed by Governor Raimondo for Fiscal 2018 would be the first installment in a five-year plan to raise their pay to $15 an hour. The original version incorrectly said the initiative marked the second installment in the "15 in 5" plan. )