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Parents and advocates for people with disabilities urge Utah goverment to take action

Neil Allred speaks at microphone in press conference.
Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice
Neil Allred (left) and Mike Menning (right) speak at a press conference at the Capital about the urgency for Utah's goverment to resolve the disability staffing crisis.

Parents and groups that serve people with disabilities spoke at the Capital last week about their experiences and how state leaders need to address Utah’s staffing crisis. Wage increases for workers in the disability staffing crisis are being considered but parents and advocates are demanding change by the legislature.

Currently the average wage for a disability staff member is $12.75 an hour. With wages so low, it’s not only driving staff to poverty but causing a huge labor shortage in the system.

Mike Menning is a parent of a son with disabilities and serves on the Utah Developmental Disabilities council. He spoke to a care worker at his son's facility.

“I said how many hours have you worked this week? He said at the end of this day, I will have put in 90 hours... I mean they're really faithful. And their health is showing it. But they're working. It's inhumane," Menning said.

There is potential for the legislature to give 40 million dollars to bring the wage up to 17.50 an hour. Although this is an essential first step in helping relieve the crisis, many parents and advocates are calling on government officials to do more.

“So if the legislature gives 40 million, that's still $17.50. And the way the inflation is this country, we're gonna have the same problem in two years, "said Neil Allred, who works for the provider agency Northeastern services. He says providers are having to close or consolidate homes, sending people with disabilities to places they don't want to be in because they don't have the staff to meet basic needs.

“As you drive around and see the different fast food restaurants, retail, anywhere between 15 and $18 an hour, we're talking about the most vulnerable population in Utah.... We can't compete, we're in a situation where we cannot raise prices...and the only way to increase wages is through the legislature through the Division of Services for People with Disabilities," Allred said. "When this road continues, there are no options for people with disabilities in the state, there is nowhere for them to go.”

Colleen Meidt is a Science Reporter at UPR as well as a PhD student at Utah State University. She studies native bees in the Mojave Desert and is particularly interested studying the conservation status of the Mohave Poppy Bee. In her free time, Colleen enjoys photography and rock climbing in the canyons.