Beacon Hill leaders are delivering some financial cheer for Massachusetts human services workers following the passage of a $3.7 billion economic development package that includes $225 million for direct care service providers.
The new funding, signed by Gov. Baker last week, allocates $100 million in the current fiscal year that “shall be provided solely to increase payments to direct care, front-line and medical and clinical staff, which may include, but shall not be limited to, hourly rate increases, wraparound benefits, shift differentials, overtime, hiring and retention bonuses or recruitment.” Only those whose rates are subject to Chapter 257 will be eligible.
In the next fiscal year, another $125 million will be released for the provider community at a “sustainable level above the 50th percentile of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics benchmark for the Commonwealth,” according to the Providers’ Council of Massachusetts.
For nonprofits that contract with the state, it was very welcome news that the Legislature had moved on the economic development bill after it stalled at the end of the regular legislative session in early August. “This is going to make a huge impact for us in a few different ways,” said Chris White, the CEO of Road to Responsibility, which provides a range of services to disabled citizens. “The money we’ll be getting most immediately will be helpful in both allowing us to provide bonuses to people to help with retention and recruitment.” The funding that arrives with the next fiscal year, beginning in July, may raise reimbursement rates and with them, allow nonprofits to increase corresponding salaries.
White estimates that about 500 of his 650 active employees will be eligible for Road to Responsibility’s share of the first allocation of funding, which he expects to arrive in January. “I’ve been really worried for my employees, just for the coming of winter and seeing what’s happening with energy costs,” White said. “I’m so relieved that we’re going to be able to put some extra money in their pockets to, if nothing else, help with heating bills.”