Petition: MN has caregiver workforce crisis

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MOORHEAD, Minn. (Valley News Live) - Understaffed and underpaid, that's what some in Minnesota are calling those who work alongside people with disabilities.

It's being called a statewide workforce crisis. A group in Minnesota held a rally Tuesday, asking lawmakers for a 5% pay increase for caregivers. They say there is a huge shortage, and the increase would help keep good workers around, and attract more people to the field.

You have probably have heard of CCRI before, maybe noticed staff who work with people requiring different needs. Amber Lobdell is one of those direct caregivers. "There have been great staff that have had to go, because even if they just go across the river, to North Dakota they can make higher wages." Says Lobdell. "The guys and I are both giving to each other in ways that have changed their lives and mine, and I can't imagine doing anything else, it's amazing."

The average caregiver in Minnesota makes somewhere around $11.00 an hour. But, across river Lobdell says they are making a couple dollars more. "It's not even about the money, but unfortunately for a lot of people you have to make it work, and a lot of staff that I have known have left. And the consistency is so important to the guys. If you think about someone being there when you think of someone taking a bath, and whatever, you want it to be someone you know."

"If they can't give us funding, then great caregivers like Amber don't have the opportunity to have an opportunity to have a pay increase, because that's the nature of the system unfortunately." Says Shannon Bock, Executive Director at CCRI. She says they have a tough time finding good people and keeping them around. "If people can go to a retail job, or go to a fast food job and make the same pay taking care of people who are vulnerable it puts a real crimp on our services for us,” says Bock.

They are hoping this year will be the year they can benefit from, as well as the people with disabilities they serve. "If we don't have a strong work force to be able to take care of them it really impacts the care that they receive," says Bock.

Lawmakers in Minnesota are expected to make a decision about the pay increase in May.