Texas group homes closing due to pay crisis
AUSTIN, Texas - About 10,000 people are enrolled in group home programs across Texas, but several locations, including in Austin, have started shutting down.
It’s because their employees, the caregivers, are leaving the industry for better paying jobs.
Sandy Batton, who leads the advocacy group Providers Alliance for Community Services of Texas, spoke to FOX 7 Austin about how the House and Senate budget negotiations will impact a proposed pay plan increase.
"It is really terrifying. And, you know, at this point, I'm not even sure that as a family member, you would want to look at a group home option for your child without knowing that there's going to be a consistent staff base and a quality staff base," said Batton.
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With group homes shutting down, there are few options for those in need.
"Folks were largely looking for group homes outside of the city. But in the worst-case scenario, sometimes we've seen people get dropped off at the hospital and there's nowhere else for them to go and those homes start to close," said Batton.
About a dozen group homes over the past few months have had to close because they just don't have caregivers.
The service is paid for through Medicaid and the only way to increase wages for the workers is for the legislature to appropriate more funds for that purpose.
"For the services that specifically support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which is the home and community-based services waiver, Texas Home living waiver and intermediate care facilities, the costs would be $215 million in general revenue to get to a pay raise for staff," said Batton. "You mentioned before that they're right now the average is $9 an hour. And with this investment, then we'd be able to pay an average of $15 an hour for staff across the state."
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Money for more pay has been put into the proposed state budgets, but there are complications.
"At this point. We have the money in the House side and the Senate side has also made an investment, but it's at a lower level. It's at a base of $11 an hour," said Batton.
The state, in trying to help, recently spurred the group home worker exodus. The hourly pay rate at state supported living centers went up and now ranges between $17.50 to $21 an hour, so many caregivers left for those jobs.
"Getting $11 an hour isn't going to keep these homes open," said Batton.