This video outlines the Crisis in Direct Support Professional wages for the District’s I/DD workforce.
By 2020, DC’s Minimum Wage will rise to $15/hour. The chart below details how Direct Support Paraprofessionals (DSP) in this industry were funded in 2013 with a $5.15/hour differential between the Minimum Wage and the Living Wage. This differential allowed for successful direct support staff recruitment. However, as this chart also dramatically documents, over the last six years, the Living Wage has increased only $1.10/hr in total, while the Minimum Wage has surged by $5/hour as of this past July.
|Year||Living Wage||Increase Versus Prior Year||Minimum Wage on 7/1/xx||Differential b/t Min & Living Wage||Percent above Min Wage|
With the coming $15/hour minimum wage for all District employees, the DC Coalition is deeply concerned about the rapidly eroding gap between the Minimum Wage and the Living Wage and the already indisputable crisis that has begun in direct support recruitment, retention and staffing. The decreasing differential between the Living Wage and the Minimum Wage over the last six years highlights our concern. The advantages that the provider industry enjoyed in 2013 – when there was a $5.15/hr wage differential – eroded to 50 cents per hour this past July.
Direct support wages for front-line staff in the provider industry is wholly tied to the DC Living Wage. Provider service per diem rates within DHCF and DDS are formed, in part, using a direct support wage factor whereby the number of direct hours that are required for a day’s supports are multiplied by the base Living Wage hourly rate. The DSP wage factor that forms the basis of the reimbursement rate sits at the very bottom of the Living Wage – $14.50/hr. There is no additional calculation in the per diem amount that specifically provides for staff increases, seniority, wage compression, performance recognition, retention or any other means of compensating staff beyond the very base level of the District’s Living Wage.
Given the significant training requirements, independent responsibilities and the array of documentation required of DSP staff, the role of the I/DD DSP is much more involved than a minimum wage job, and in order to protect workers as well as those supported, it cannot be treated as such. But that is exactly what it will be without an adequate reimbursement rate for direct support staff.
DC Council Bill B23-214 would aid those DSPs providing supports in the community. 2020 is coming. And with it, the presently growing workforce crisis in I/DD provider supports will become both newsworthy and unmistakably evident unless funding is allocated for this critical workforce through B23-214. The District has only recently achieved compliance from four decades of civil rights litigation and class action claims resulting in court-ordered benchmarks in response to the Evans v. Bowser decision. Let’s not adversely impact the quality of services to our citizens by failing to fund DSPs at a fair wage for their heroic work.