New State Budget – What Does This Mean?

A new state budget, set to begin July 1, 2021, has been increased for IDD services by $40 million, which will raise the average Direct Support Professional wage to $15/hour. This statement is accurate in its wording, but not so much in the impression it gives. So, what does this mean?

The state budget has significantly increased funding for IDD services, and we are certainly grateful. This, plus the 2017 increase, moves the reimbursement rate to near where it should be considering inflation over the past 14 years. But, this increase is NOT for all the services we provide to our clients. The increase is for a limited group of Medicaid Waiver funded services. There are many services provided by LIFEDesigns and many other agencies that are not receiving any increased funding. This increase is designed to benefit DSPs, but NOT all DSPs. The legislation requires that at least 95% of the funding increase benefit those DSPs (and only DSPs) who provide the limited group of Medicaid Waiver funded services and not those who provide other services. The increase was calculated on the concept of increasing the average wage for DSPs providing those limited Medicaid Waiver services to $15 during the second year of the budget (that is, after July 1, 2022).

The state has not yet released all the specific requirements to comply with this, nor have they let us know when the increase in reimbursement rates will actually start, but it is unlikely it will be July 1. The only thing we know is this increased revenue must be used to improve wages and/or benefits for a small group of DSPs, but not all DSPs. We do not believe this is fair to all employees. Each and every person who works at LIFEDesigns is important and valuable, and no one gets paid what they truly deserve for the hard work and commitment demonstrated every day. We want to explore ways that will benefit ALL employees at LIFEDesigns regardless of where they work or what services they provide for our clients.

Our goal, and our challenge, is to find a way to reward every member of the LIFEDesigns Team even though the state has not provided support for this. You may know that the current average DSP wage in Indiana is under $10.50/hour, which is not even our training wage, and isn’t close to our minimum starting DSP wage (starting at $13/hour after paid training). Despite this reality, there will be an increase in wages for all employees once the new reimbursement rates are in effect. But we are also looking at improving and increasing benefits for full-time and part-time employees.

In hopes to decrease some of current challenges, we began offering a $500 sign-on bonus to new employees, as well as extra benefits, such as a Birthday Bonus & Employee Referral Bonus, for current employees, which was effective May 1, 2021. Also, starting July 1, 2021, we will be rolling offering a Work Anniversary Bonus and potential raises for every employee who is performing satisfactory work.

Direct Support Professionals deserve to be paid for the work they do, and it is our priority that our staff knows how much we appreciate their efforts to help our clients live independently. We are so proud of our employees and excited to see what the future holds for not only LIFEDesigns, but for agencies who share a similar mission in providing staff support to individuals with disabilities. 

Click here to read more about this new state budget