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Long-term care workers want Connecticut to spend money on them in the new budget

Sign from an SEIU 1199 Union strike on October 12, 2021 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
A sign from an SEIU 1199 union strike on Oct. 12, 2021, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Health care workers in Connecticut say they are still reeling after the pandemic — after putting their health at risk for jobs that didn’t pay them enough.

“I was always at work – I didn’t have that time with my family like everyone that has to be on Zoom or whatever,” said Chennal Chase, a member of the health care workers union SEIU 1199NE.

Sometimes it takes more than one job to make ends meet. Chase, from Manchester, has three jobs. She makes $20 an hour at her primary job at a nonprofit group home in Hartford called Oak Hill, which is supported by state funding. Her rate is $3 more an hour than some of her peers due to her seniority.

Now state Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, is proposing legislation that would raise the minimum wage for certain long-term care workers like Chase to $25 an hour by 2025.

It’s a raise that’s specific to workers at group homes run by the state Department of Developmental Services.

“We have to invest in the people who are taking care of us,” Lesser said.

Lesser and the leader of a union Chase belongs to believe the state of Connecticut can afford to give workers in nursing homes and group homes a raise, thanks to a $3 billion budget surplus.

“People are going to tell us that we’re crazy,” Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199NE, said. “I don’t believe that the idea of ending poverty for long-term workers is crazy.”

Lesser’s legislation relies on $106 million in state funding next fiscal year and then $196 million the following fiscal year.

The bill doesn’t have a number yet — it’s been raised as a concept in a state legislative committee. Republicans in the state House say its “passage is dubious.”

Lesser says the $25 by ’25 proposal is “a vehicle to begin a conversation.”

It wouldn’t fund a $25 minimum wage for all long-term care workers in the state. To do that, SEIU 1199NE is asking the governor for $700 million in the budget.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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