Following rallies Saturday in the streets and Wednesday in front of the Capitol, care workers and clients one step closer to getting long-overdue COVID-19 emergency funding for this critical work
Home care workers and clients with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota celebrated the Minnesota Senate joining the Minnesota House in passing the emergency wage and benefit increase in the omnibus special session bill Thursday by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The rate increase, when signed by the Governor, will be available to help support the workers who have been on the front lines of caring for tens of thousands of Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities through over seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Home care workers, who are almost all women like me, and many of whom are women of color, have stepped up throughout this pandemic, working to keep seniors and people with disabilities living safely in their homes and with their families. We’ve put our lives on hold to ensure we are being safe for those we care for, but we haven’t gotten any support at all for this critical, life-saving work. By passing this emergency rate increase, and doing so on a strongly bipartisan basis, the Senate joins the House in taking an important step to finally showing that our elected officials value and appreciate the work we have been doing every day during this pandemic,” said Robin Pikala, a home care worker and member-leader with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota from Fridley.
“But this temporary support during the peacetime emergency is just a stopgap. We have so much work left to do as a state to fix the care crisis that has been hurting workers and clients for many years even before the pandemic, by finally providing a living wage and real benefits and professional standards to this critical workforce,” Pikala continued. “We are looking forward to addressing those long-term challenges and injustices in the contract negotiations we’ll be starting with the state of Minnesota in just a couple weeks. But for today, with these votes, I’m glad to feel like our work, which has been praised by everyone as essential, is finally getting some real, needed support as we work on the frontlines of this pandemic.”
The Senate vote comes just days after care workers and the seniors and people with disabilities they care for shut down the road outside the Capitol to showcase the urgency of needing support for this critical work during COVID-19. A delegation also rallied outside the Capitol Wednesday when the House was in session, to make sure elected officials didn’t leave behind this essential workforce.
Because of years of underfunding, thousands of Minnesotans are currently struggling to find quality care they need. Home care workers make as little as $13.25 per hour, with few benefits despite the critical nature of their work. The temporary rate increase for home care workers that was approved by the House as part of the bonding bill, when signed into law by Governor Walz, would be a huge boost to Minnesotans all across the state.