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Advocates want 5 percent raise for care assistants

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State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth
State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, announces his support for a campaign to boost funding for services for people with disabilities at an event in front of the Duluth City Hall on Aug. 13. Huntley says the $70 million plan would give a much needed raise to the 112,000 Minnesotans who work as direct service providers for elderly adults and people with disabilities.
MPR Photo/Dan Kraker

A new coalition of advocates for people with disabilities and the elderly is calling for a 5 percent increase in state funding for services they receive at home and in the community.

The so-called "5% Campaign" would raise the wages of the 112,000 Minnesotans who provide direct services to elderly and disabled people, matching a 5 percent raise the Legislature passed last session for nursing home workers, said state Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth.

"The work that the people do in nursing homes or with the disability community is very similar," Huntley said Tuesday, kicking off the campaign. "If we don't pay them the same, we're not being fair."

Huntley says the median wage for those workers has declined by about 10 percent over the past decade. He says the new plan would cost about $70 million.

Workers provide services from independent living skills training to in-home meals, said Steve Larson, campaign co-chair and senior policy director for The Arc Minnesota, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities.

"All of these programs received several cuts in recent years, during tough budget times," he said. "Now is the time to correct that situation."