Health care workers: State budget breaks promise of raise

(WTNH / Kevin Pflaumer)

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – More than 8,000 home health care workers say they were promised a raise back in the spring, but the money for that raise did not end up in the bipartisan budget touted by legislative leaders of both parties.

These are the workers who help the elderly and disabled stay in their own homes by helping them out of bed, into wheelchairs, feeding them, and bathing them. Some of these workers are making as little as $10.50 an hour. They were told that would go up significantly, but that money is not in this budget.

Kara O’Dwyer, a home health worker from West Haven, currently makes $13.53 an hour.

“I was promised a raise to $14.75,” O’Dwyer said. “It was supposed to be in effect already, and a raise to $15 by April of 2018.”

Related Content: State budget overwhelmingly passes Senate 33-3

Instead, the bipartisan state budget offers no raise at all. Home health workers were also promised they would be able to take part in workers compensation. They do not pay into workers’ comp right now, despite doing a very physical job.

“I have to help with transfers in and out of a wheelchair, and most of the time my client can’t assist me so it’s all on my own strength and balance and sometimes it doesn’t quite work out right,” said O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer said she has hurt her back while on the job, but kept working, both because her clients rely on her for daily necessities such as eating and using the bathroom, but also because she can’t afford to miss a day of work. Eliminating the new contract has left home health care workers with limited resources.

“Limited as far as which bills I can pay, whether I can afford to get back and forth to work, whether I can put food on the table, whether the basic necessities are taken care of,” O’Dwyer said.

She says even the small raise she was promised would make a big difference in her life. Without it, fewer people will want to go into her line of work, which she says is shortsighted, because if the elderly and disabled end up in nursing homes, it actually costs the state a lot more money in the long run.

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