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Dear Chairman Brewer, Chairman Dempsey and members of the House and Senate Ways & Means Committees: Thank you for this opportunity to address you. The Providers' Council is a statewide association of home‐ and community‐based human services organizations that provide an array of services to one in ten Massachusetts residents. The Council is the state’s largest human services association, and it represents a sector that employs more than 185,000 individuals and receives more than $2.1 billion from the state – more than 7 percent of the state budget. Today, we turn to the legislature for the support necessary to fulfill the Commonwealth’s promise to care for and empower our most vulnerable residents. It is our belief that, with proper and predictable funding, human services providers in Massachusetts can continue to provide high‐quality services to more than 600,000 individuals in the Commonwealth who require them. Therefore, we hope the legislature will: • • • Reverse proposed human services cuts in House 1 budget and ensure all programs are fully funded. Include a Salary Reserve of $28 million in your budget proposal, allowing more than 31,500 low‐paid human services workers to receive a small salary adjustment. Support our proposed legislative agenda with six bills that would benefit both our clients/consumers and our employees.
Our Request We recognize that the Commonwealth is in an incredibly difficult fiscal situation. The recession has placed a great stress on all budget items, and the human services sector has not been immune from those stresses. Our sector – which has been continually asked to do more with less as demand for services has soared – has received a disproportionate amount of cuts, which affect those for whom we care, as well as the 185,000 employees who work to take care of our most vulnerable. While EOHHS spent $2.9 billion on human services in 2007, spending has decreased since by about 28 percent. This is not simply something that has hurt providers – it has hurt people. Reverse proposed human services cuts in House 1 budget The House 1 budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012 recommended many significant budget cuts to human services line items. These cuts, if present in the final budget, would result in a loss of
services to the most vulnerable individuals in the Commonwealth. They could also mean a loss of jobs to hard working Massachusetts residents who provide essential services for those in need and generate $112 million in state and local taxes, which stimulate the economy. Additionally, those who can go to work because an elderly parent or a child with disabilities receives care may no longer be able to do so if services are cut. The Providers’ Council requests the legislature restore human services cuts proposed in the House 1 budget, including: • • • • • • • • • • • • $23 million for emergency homeless shelters $21.4 million for mental health hospitals, children’s community flexible supports and clubhouse programs $15 million for employment services programs $14.4 million for community services for the blind and turning 22 programs & services $14 million for family respite services $11.5 million for clothing allowance paid for families receiving TAFDC money $8.3 million for residential services for detained or committed populations $8 million for early intervention services $6.6 million for group care services $6.5 million for health promotion activities and newborn hearing screenings $4 million for services for children and families $2 million for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and services
While the Council would like to see all of these items restored, we are particularly troubled by the $15 million cut for employment services, which eliminates the entire program. The state yesterday announced its unemployment rate held at 8.3 percent in January, leaving more than 290,000 state residents without jobs, exacerbating an already difficult situation. The Employment Services Program could have helped many people return to work, but the $15 million cut instead eliminates the Competitive Integrated Employment Services program, which helped 7,500 welfare recipients find employment, and the Young Parent Program, which helped 14‐to‐21 year olds without a high school diploma find work. All of these cuts represent a loss of services for human services clients and/or a loss of jobs for our direct care staff, but the cut to the Employment Services Program (line item 4401‐1000) represents both. Not only will welfare recipients no longer receive supports in finding employment, but many of our clients, consumers and others with disabilities will no longer receive assistance in finding a job. We must ensure that our unemployed receive assistance in returning to work, and the reinstatement of this program will greatly assist in that endeavor. Preserve jobs for low‐paid workers by including a Salary Reserve As we noted earlier, many of our direct care staff are among the lowest‐paid professionals in the Commonwealth. Many workers make less than $12/hour, and because of outdated, inflexible state contracts, many of them have not received any type of salary adjustment in more than three years. Many times, these individuals truly are a paycheck away from being on unemployment themselves or experiencing a fiscal catastrophe. With the workforce expected to grow and turnover a significant problem for many human services organizations, we ask that you fund a Salary Reserve of $28 million to go to the 31,500 direct care workers who make less than $40,000/year. This fund had been traditionally given to
direct care workers in the Commonwealth; between FY ’97 and FY ’08, it provided nearly $190 million for the lowest‐paid workers. In FY ’08, for example, a $23 million Salary Reserve was paid to more than 31,500 low‐paid workers. This only amounted to a salary increase of about $14/week – the price of a large pizza. These small, nominal salary adjustments show our workforce that we value them; however, they have not received any increase in the past three fiscal years. Our direct care workers are the real difference‐makers in the human services sector, providing direct services to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable population. Please ensure our workers can afford to remain in a sector they find fulfilling by providing them with a nominal salary adjustment in FY ’12. Support our proposed legislative agenda The Providers’ Council has introduced six bills this legislative session that would: • • • Provide better health care options by helping human services organizations and their employees deal with escalating health insurance premiums Develop our workforce by better educating the sector’s 185,000 employees Diversify revenue streams by supporting the growth of human services social enterprises
We want to briefly provide you with more information about our legislation and why we feel it is important. Of these six bills, only one has any direct costs to the state, but all provide a direct benefit to the Commonwealth’s capacity to sustain jobs and/or opportunity. Bills Related to Health Care Three of our bills would assist human services organizations in purchasing health insurance and maintaining quality insurance products with better affordability for many workers. • HD 1592, filed by Rep. Kay Khan, would allow human service providers to voluntarily purchase insurance through the Group Insurance Commission, providing some organizations and employees an opportunity to save costs on health insurance. • SD 1681, sponsored by Sen. Richard Moore, would allow low‐paid human services workers to seek insurance through the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector, even if their employer offers a health insurance plan. • SD 1733, also sponsored by Sen. Richard Moore, would allow the Council to become an insurance buying cooperative in Massachusetts. The Council would seek to gain status as a cooperative and ask the state to allow human services organizations with any number of employees to join our cooperative. This would allow us to provide low‐cost but high‐quality health care plans to the lowest paid employees. Bills Related to Workforce Development Two of our bills would help human services workers further their education. • SD 190, filed by Sen. Gale Candaras, would expand our already successful tuition remission program to include graduate‐level courses and continuing education courses. The benefit would be similar to the benefit given to state employees. Over 16,000 tuition remission certificates have been processed.
SD 206, also filed by Sen. Gale Candaras, would allow for loan repayment for credentialed direct care human services workers. This would enable direct care workers to receive $150/month toward student loan payments for a period not to exceed 48 months. It is contingent on the state’s ability to pay.
Bill Related to Revenue Diversification • HD 2833, filed by Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, encourages the growth of human services social enterprises by creating an incentive for state procurement officers to purchase goods and services from social enterprises without a lengthy bid process. The bill would allow procurement officers to make purchases of up to $25,000 from a human services enterprise without issuing an RFR. These six bills would greatly benefit the human services sector and its workforce of 185,000 employees. Considering the modest investment in cost to the Commonwealth, the benefits are significant and demand consideration. We hope to discuss these bills with you and your colleagues in the future. Summary Our entire system of care undoubtedly rests upon a dedicated, educated and committed workforce. It is well documented that our workers are incredibly low paid for the hard work they do on behalf of the Commonwealth. Many make less than is necessary to live adequately in the Commonwealth without a second or third job. They provide essential services to our most vulnerable residents, yet these caregivers often cannot afford their own medical insurance or increases in basic costs with such limited salaries. Our work, in partnership with government, builds stronger, more caring communities, as well as the state’s workforce. While many budget challenges face the legislature as it plans its budget for FY ’12, there can be no challenge greater than maintaining our promise of quality care. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss these issues with you, and we look forward to working with you in building a stronger Commonwealth.
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