ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Caregivers for the elderly and disabled got a head start Tuesday on lobbying Minnesota lawmakers to approve a 5 percent rate increase for home and community based services, using a rally attended by hundreds and presided over by supportive legislators.
The rally by the self-described "5% Campaign" comes about four months before the Legislature returns to the Capitol for its 2014 session. And that was partly the point of organizers: to put the initiative high on the radar if there are surplus dollars in the mix for lawmakers to spend.
The coalition's aim is to persuade the 2014 Legislature to sign off on the rate increase, which promoters say is essential for keeping caregiving operations viable and stemming high employee turnover.
"If we speak up loud enough and again and again and again and again, we will be a priority in the 2014 legislative session," said Bruce Nelson, CEO of ARRM, an organization aimed at promoting community-based services for the disabled. Those in attendance chanted "I am a priority" as they waved signs with the 5 percent urgings.
Rep. Thomas Huntley, DFL-Duluth, was among the lawmakers from both parties to address the rally. As chairman of a House health finance committee, he is considered a key supporter. But he knows such a bump wouldn't come cheap: at least $86 million per year.
Huntley noted that nursing homes got a rate increase recently.
"These folks do the same job that people in nursing homes do and should be treated the same," Huntley said.
The 2014 session begins in late February.