Fairer pay for PCAs seen as needed to recruit, retain staff

If we truly believe in the dignity of every individual and the work that PCAs do, then we certainly can’t […]

From our community

If we truly believe in the dignity of every individual and the work that PCAs do, then we certainly can’t hide behind paying them less than they would make at Kwik Trip, or make sure that it’s difficult to retain and keep people.

– Governor Tim Walz
2020 Minnesota Coalition on Disability Forum

This statement from the governor gives PCA (personal care assistant) workers hope. It makes us believe that this could be the year when PCA workers will finally be recognized for their continued hard work. This is why we will be fighting so hard to get the PCA Rate Framework legislation passed this session. The new framework will establish a better method of determining rates for the PCA program, leading to fairer pay for PCAs and in turn making it easier to recruit and retain desperately needed PCA workers. 

“If people with disabilities cannot get out of bed in the morning, they’re not going to be able to hold jobs, attend day programs, or participate in the community,” said Jeff Bangsberg, board chair of the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living. “The PCA Rate Framework would treat the PCA program like other long-term care support programs overseen by the MN Department of Human Services.” 

The PCA Rate Framework would determine PCA rates using a data-driven method, similar to the one already in place for the DWRS (Disability Waiver Rate Service) program. The PCA Rate Framework introduces a new term called the Competitive Workforce Factor, which considers the wages of comparable occupations in the same market. PCA reimbursement rates would be determined by collecting data on work experience requirements, pay rates and provider reimbursement in programs with staff that perform functions similar to those required for PCAs. 

In addition to providing a more appropriate method of determining PCA reimbursement, the proposed legislation would require the PCA program to be built into future state budget forecasts, considering the need for annual inflation increases. It also adds program integrity standards to ensure the quality of PCA services and support best practices in accounting, record keeping, and compliance. 

It’s important to note that the proposed PCA Rate Framework will apply to both the Traditional and PCA Choice providers within the PCA program. Traditional providers are responsible for recruiting, hiring, scheduling and training PCAs. They are also required to supervise PCA staff and must provide back-up PCAs for emergency situations. PCA Choice providers, represented by the SEIU labor agreement, handle the financial and supervisory aspects of PCA employment and reimbursement, but PCA Choice clients are responsible for hiring and training their own PCA staff, including emergency back-up staff. This gives PCA Choice clients more control, but many individuals are either unable or do not have the time to do these activities and therefore use Traditional rather than Choice agencies. Both Traditional and Choice agencies receive the same reimbursement from the state, which is grossly inadequate. The proposed PCA Rate Framework will begin to improve reimbursement for the PCA program, helping all clients who rely on these vital services. 

“We must acknowledge that being a personal care assistant is a necessary and valued career by creating a regularly increasing, viable, livable wage and benefit potential for this type of work,” said Dena Belisle, chair of the Minnesota First Provider Alliance. 

Follow the work of the PCA Reform Coalition online.

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