State nursing homes receive money to raise wages

Part of the $30 million funding boost would go to raising wages
Part of the $30 million funding boost would go to raising wages

The Massachusetts nursing home industry has pledged to raise worker wages as part of receiving an extra $30 million in state funding — but union officials want assurance the funds will hit front-line workers.

The state's nursing home industry would receive an extra $30 million in funding under Gov. Charlie Baker's (R) proposed budget, some of which would go towards the wage increase called for in a “living wage” campaign led by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association.

Under the group's “Quality Jobs for Quality Care” plan, nursing homes would receive $18 million of the extra funding to boost wages, Tara Gregorio, senior vice president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, told the Boston Globe. The remaining funds would be used to reimburse facilities owed money by the state.

“We are very appreciative of the governor in taking this critical first step in recognizing the need to invest in nursing home workers and quality care,” Gregorio said.

The “Quality Jobs” initiative calls for the state to designate $90 million per year from the state budget to fund benefits for LTC employees, instead of going towards non-nursing home health programs. It also requests that the state Department of Health and Human Services monitor the wage initiative to ensure the extra funds go to increased wages and benefits.

Baker's proposed budget plan does not include a specific requirement mandating that the extra funds go towards higher wages for nursing home workers, a fact that's causing concern among consumer advocacy groups and the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union.

“We will be working with our allies through the legislative process . . . to ensure that new nursing home rates are used as a wage pass-through for the nursing home direct care workforce,” said Tyrek Lee, executive vice president of the union, in a statement to the Globe.