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March 3, 2019; Daily Nonpareil

NPQ has long been writing about the untenable and unethical “wage ghetto” environment of direct care workers in certain fields, one of which is home health care. This state of affairs causes rapid staff turnover in a workforce where stability and longevity are essential—both to the business, and to those who depend on the services. Now, EveryStep, a 111-year-old organization providing home health care; hospice, maternal, and child health programs; family support; and other direct care services to 63,000 Iowans a year, has declared that as of last Friday, it will provide a livable wage base for its dedicated workforce. It will never again pay less than $15 per hour.

The raise will affect 44 employees across 14 different positions in the agency and will raise wages as much as $4 an hour. Most of the affected positions are in home health care and hospice. According to Iowa CareGivers, an advocacy group, the state’s average wages for the staff positions in question in 2016 ranged from $9.01 to $13.22 an hour.

The organization says it took a number of factors into consideration in making the move, including the national conversation around a livable wage and the position of United Way of Central Iowa in advocating for greater economic stability in the region. Though the raise may be an ethical act, it will also place the organization in a very competitive recruitment position in a field that’s experiencing a serious shortage of direct care workers in an environment of increasing need.

“As a nonprofit, we are constantly driven to be more efficient with our resources,” EveryStep CEO Tray Wade said. “The smartest investment we can make is in our own hard-working, compassionate employees. Our goal is to be the employer of choice in our field, and we believe this increase will pay dividends in terms of speed of hiring and employee retention.”

It will also create a standard that others will have to match to stay properly staffed and for that we can all be grateful. NPQ would love to hear from other organizations that have made similar commitments—what did it take? What impacts has it had?—Ruth McCambridge