FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contacts: Nancy Crowther
ATTENTION: MEDIA AND PRESS cell 512-808-7486
February 19, 2019 1:00pm David Wittie cell 512-577-8982
Community Members with Disabilities Demonstrate:
A Day Without Community Attendant Assistance
ADAPT and PACT are here at the Capitol today in an urgent call to the state appropriations for attention to a calamity that the state has refused to address: Recruitment and Retaining the Community Attendants.
Individuals who depend on Community Attendants to live independently in the community are finding it difficult to recruit and retain Community Attendants at the wage of $8.00 an hour.
“We are calling for $15 an hour wage—RAI$E IT!” said Cathy Cranston, organizer for ADAPT and PACT. “We are here in the Capitol Rotunda to demonstrate what it looks like to not have any Community Attendants and what it means for people with disabilities.” The current base wage is $8 an hour.
Texans with disabilities of all ages who need long term services and supports are facing a crisis in their services. A growing shortage of direct care workers, Community Attendants, means people with disabilities are without the vital assistance to maintain their care. Community Attendants perform basic assistance with tasks the person cannot do for themselves, things like dressing, toileting, transferring, bathing and feeding. Without this assistance many people with disabilities cannot function nor live independently in the community, facing potential and costlier institutional assistance costing the state 10 times more than the cost to live in the community. Yet with the wage of $8.00 an hour, (and NO benefits) it is getting harder and harder to find people to do this critical work.
The extremely low wages the attendants are paid is one of the primary reasons for this shortage. The economics of labor force competition shows that while someone starting work at a fast food restaurant, at Buc-ees, at Amazon, or any number of other unskilled jobs, will start at $12 to $15 an hour, or more. Texas Community Attendants start at eight dollars an hour.
More and more frequently, people with disabilities are literally having to sleep in their wheelchairs or spend long stretches in bed because no one can come to assist them. This leads to health complications such as pressure sores. After preventable hospitalizations, this can lead to people being forced into nursing homes or sent to rehab hospitals and it can even kill them. These alternatives (aside from death) are exponentially expensive than providing the services they needed in the community in the first place.
ADAPT and PACT believe part of the reason for ignoring this crisis is that people are out of sight of the decision makers. “We want everyone to see exactly what happens when a person with a disability has no Community Attendant to assist them” said Nancy Crowther. “We want people to see what being without Community Attendants means in our lives for just one day or over a lifetime.”
“We have done studies, met with bureaucrats, participated in work groups, testified again and again to the Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Legislature. We have made videos, interviewed those affected, and done everything we can think of to get this issue addressed” said Cathy Cranston, PACT organizer.
“Community Attendants are human beings. We have families and real lives. We care about our clients, but we must live as well and we deserve to be treated fairly” said Kika Grajeda, PACT organizer.
“I think my life is worth more than a hamburger, a tank of gas or some packing peanuts” added Josue Rodriguez. “Not paying Community Attendants what they are worth means people with disabilities suffer the consequences. I think Texas can do better.”
“The situation is worst for seniors and adults with disabilities, from ventilator-users, to quadriplegics, to people with dementia or stroke. Community Attendants in these programs earn less than those who work for people who work in other programs even though they are doing the same tasks for the person.” Bob Kafka of ADAPT added. “It is time to raise ALL wage$ to $15. Equal Pay for Equal Work.”