JBC Approves Polis-Primavera Administration Plan to Raise Minimum Wage for Colorado’s Direct Care Workers to $15/hour

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

DENVER- Today, the Joint Budget Committee members and Chair Moreno approved a plan put forward by the Polis-Primavera administration and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing that starting January 1, 2022, direct care workers funded with any state dollars working in-home and community-based settings are to receive a minimum wage of $15 per hour. 

This wage increase would target workers who currently receive the lowest rate of pay, yet provide the vast majority of hands-on care to older adults and individuals with disabilities within our state, including personal care workers, homemakers, direct support professionals, and others.

“Every Coloradan should be able to live and enjoy the Colorado we love and I’m proud that we’re taking care of those who take care of our loved ones. Colorado has one of the fastest-growing aging populations in the country so making sure we can hire and retain caregivers is important for today and for years to come. In Colorado, we value our workers so I fully support moving to a $15 minimum wage for caregivers,” said Governor Polis.

The Medicaid rate increase needed to achieve this will be initially funded through federal American Rescue Plan Act funds dedicated to Home and Community-Based Services. 

President Biden requested $400 billion over eight years for home and community-based services in the federal reconciliation package. That has been reduced to $190 billion in the current House draft language and there is a long history of bipartisan support for meeting the care needs of our aging and disability community.

“Direct care workers are the unsung heroes of Colorado’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their hands-on work with Coloradans who are aging, or have disabilities and need care has saved lives and sustained communities.  However, these workers are essential personnel even when our state is not responding to a pandemic. Raising wages is one way we can thank these workers, and attract more people to this rewarding, and critically important field,” said Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera.

“Our direct care workers play an integral role in providing critical support for our community, spending long hours each day to ensure that the most vulnerable Coloradans are safe, healthy, and properly cared for,” said Senator Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City). “With this minimum wage increase, we can expand access to vital services for Coloradans in need and ensure top-notch care for seniors and individuals with disabilities. These workers deserve our thanks and appreciation, and this is just one way for us to show our immense gratitude for all that they do.” 

The Joint Budget Committee voted in favor of the plan this afternoon on a vote of 5-1. 

“Anyone who has cared for an elderly parent or loved one with disabilities has a special appreciation for our long-term care and home health workers. This wage adjustment supports the critical contribution these workers bring to the people they serve every day,” said Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director, Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.  

“We either value all Colorado residents or not.  People with disabilities of all ages rely on others to get through our day to a greater extent than non-disabled people.  The people that assist us do valuable and important work and deserve fair compensation including Paid Time Off and increases for both merit and Cost Of Living Adjustments,” said Julie Reiskin Executive Director of the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition. 

“Today's announcement is a sign that the administration heard the call of care workers, who provide quality care to seniors and people with disabilities across our state and is committed to improving these essential jobs. A $15 an hour minimum wage for home care workers is a great step to making sure they can take care of themselves as they continue to take care of others. We applaud the Polis administration and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing for standing with care workers and using the federal relief funds as they were intended, to lift up Colorado workers and our communities,” said Stephanie Felix-Sowy, SEIU Local 105 Healthcare Organizing Director, and Director of Colorado Care Workers Unite (CCWU)

“Direct care workers have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic and this step will help close the equity gap we see in this workforce, as these important workers are often women and/or people of color. As Colorado’s aging population continues to grow, this workforce will be critical to keeping Coloradans in their communities as long as they choose,” said Bob Murphy, AARP State Director.