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Walz highlights home care by pitching in

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Governor Walz applies lotion to a man's feet
Gov. Tim Walz helps dress Jay Spika, as Spika's home care worker, Deb Howze, looks on at his home in St. Paul.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz spent time assisting a home health care worker Friday to highlight the challenges of working with people with disabilities and the elderly.

He also highlighted the excess of job openings in the profession of work due to low wages.

“We have to make sure that they are able to get a wage that keeps them in this,” Walz said.

Walz helped Deb Howze as she cared for her client Jay Spika at his home in St. Paul. Spika suffers from MS and has limited mobility.

Home care workers have seen some improvements since unionizing five years ago. But Howze told the governor that her current pay of $13.25 an hour makes it hard to get by.

“We have to break the barriers of what’s going on,” Howze said. “You talk about one Minnesota. Well, we need to be included in that one Minnesota.”

Spika urged the governor to invest more in a program that many Minnesotans need.

“It’s not a matter of if you’re going to need these services,” Spika said. Everybody is going to need these services. It’s a matter of when.”

The union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, represents more than 25,000 workers statewide under the current two-year contract with the state.

Walz said he wants to see additional wage increase for home care workers.

“When the contract came out, we described it as a start,” Walz said. “There’s a ways to go.”