As Congress continues to mark up and draft COVID-19 legislation to pass through the reconciliation process, ANCOR sent two letters on state funding and minimum wage issues to urge Congress to support disability priorities.
The first letter, from ANCOR to key congressional leaders, expresses support for the overall goal of increasing the federal minimum hourly wage to $15 while laying out the challenges facing Medicaid providers who are wage rate takers, not rate setters. As written in the letter: “Because our workforce is disproportionately composed of women, workers of color and immigrants, low wages disproportionately impact the very groups who need livable wages now more than ever. For these reasons, we applaud efforts by Congress to help support hourly wage earners.
However, if the federal minimum wage is increased and state Medicaid programs are not compelled to increase payments to providers accordingly, community-based providers like those represented by ANCOR will have no good options to comply with the new federal wage mandate. Because DSP wages and benefits are predominantly tied to reimbursement rates, a wage hike without commensurate resources will force providers to reduce direct support positions. This will result in significant program closures and a dramatic reduction in the number of people to whom services can be delivered. This not only puts people in jeopardy of being institutionalized in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the number of people on states’ waiting lists for HCBS—already nearly 600,000—would balloon.”
The second letter, a multi-sector coalition letter joined by over 300 organizations, went to the entirety of Congress and to support the $350 billion in state and local funding currently included in the draft COVID-19 relief legislation. As written in the letter: “More than 1.3 million front-line public service workers – nurses, teachers, emergency responders and corrections officers, to name just a few – have on one hand been thanked for their heroism and given a pink slip with the other because of the holes the pandemic blew open in state and local budgets. This staggering loss of jobs hurts our economy; we cannot add jobs by subtracting them. More importantly, the loss of these public service workers hurts our ability to quickly get shots in arms, prevent our children from falling behind, and help save businesses by delivering essential services like sanitation, clean water and good roads. All the while state and local costs to combat COVID-19 continue to increase and the negative economic impacts from the pandemic continue. We appreciate the thoughtful work of the drafting committees to ensure that aid to our states, cities, counties, tribes, and territories will be distributed fairly, so communities of all sizes can receive the help they need. As the House and Senate consider this legislation we ask that you maintain the $350 billion funding that will get aid quickly to all corners of the country.”