Our Opinion: A need for higher wages

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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Cedar Valley Services’ need for employees is unfortunately an all too familiar issue dogging companies in the state of Minnesota.

CVS and other companies that provide support staff for the developmentally disabled looking to join the workforce are in a worker crunch that is having a trickle down effect nobody wants because at the end of the day it’s depriving a portion of our society that wants to work, a crucial experience.

The crux of the issue is that wages for CVS support staff are dictated by an out-of-date disability waiver rates system. This system determines the wages of employees at CVS and similar businesses.

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Thus, CVS is unable to replace many of the employees it lost during the pandemic as they struggle to meet the salaries of other businesses.

“We get paid based on certain information they used to determine [wages],’’ said CVS Executive Director Rich Pavek. “That’s not what people are getting paid anymore and wages are going through the roof.”

While we understand there are hundreds of voices clamoring for a piece of Minnesota’s $9.3 billion record surplus, it should become a priority to get some of these funds to places like CVS so they can hire the necessary staff and get those people being served by CVS into the workforce.

Because that’s the other side of it. Pavek said last week that right now 34 people with disabilities are on a waiting list to come back with another 20 new individual waiting, who have never been served before.

These are qualified employees just waiting to contribute and all they need is the support staff to help facilitate this.

Instead, these potential employees are largely sitting inactive.

“In the meantime, they are sitting at home,” Pavek said. “It’s not good. It has a devastating effect sitting at home. They lose the skills they’ve developed, their health is not good, their mental health can suffer during all this time at home and they miss their friends. It’s their general wellness.”

With so many places looking for employees it just makes sense that CVS be looked to in order to help fill these rolls.

The developmentally disabled are willing to work, but are paying the price for a lagging wage system that is putting up road blocks that are not incentivizing people to join what can be a very rewarding career. But it’s also demanding with a lot of responsibility and the fact remains, the wages have to be there.

We urge our area representatives Rep. Patricia Mueller, Sen. Gene Dornink and Rep. Peggy Bennett to reach out to Pavek and learn about this problem and actively work to change this system for the better.

This is a way to close a circle and help all of those involved.