Missouri House blocks pay increase for at-home caretakers

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House rejected a ruling by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that would increase wages for at-home caretakers.

At-home caretakers work through third-party organizations to provide health care throughout the state to senior citizens who are no longer about to care for themselves. The workers are paid with Medicaid funds.

The proposed rule aims to raise wages from the current minimum of $7.65 per hour to range from $8.50 to $10.15 per hour. Representative John Wiemann told KOMU-8 that GOP House Speaker Todd Richardson made a point to come down to floor to refute the ruling on Wednesday. Richardson said the department does not have the authority to raise wages for the workers. 

Representative Jeanne Kirkton said at-home caretakers deserve the pay raise. 

"These workers absolutely deserve to be paid more," Kirkton said. "They are usually women and they are working very hard. Their labor isn't glamorous, but it's absolutely necessary."

However, Representative Jay Barnes said whether or not the Republican party supports increasing the wages is "not relevant".

"The only question on the resolution is whether or not the department has the authority to do this," Barnes said.

Barnes also said Gov. Nixon was aware the department did not have the authority to make this rule, and that he allowed it to happen to place blame on the General Assembly. 

Representative John Rizzo referred to the ruling being blocked as "hiding" behind a rule.

"We can go back and worry about the rule as far as what they're talking about and have different legislation to work on that, but right now we need to work on giving them the pay raise," Rizzo said.

A representative from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the department does not comment on pending legislation.

The decision now moves to Gov. Nixon.