KINGMAN – Fifteen people with intellectual and developmental disabilities lost their jobs and employment training when Achieve Human Services closed its Kingman office March 13.
Carol Carr, chief executive officer of Yuma-based Achieve, blames it on the increase in minimum wage and underfunding of state agencies that provide services for the disabled.
Proposition 206, passed by voters in November, raised Arizona’s minimum wage from $8.05 to $10 an hour effective Jan. 1, and that was the nail in the coffin for many service providers, Carr said.
They were already starting to close their doors and eliminate specific programs after 10 years of funding cuts.
Achieve Human Services, formerly at 1867 Gates Ave. in Kingman, was training people with disabilities for janitorial work, secured document destruction, bulk mailing, grounds maintenance and similar jobs.
“Not only are they trained to learn a skill, they get a paycheck,” Carr said Tuesday from Yuma. “So it’s a very valuable service. What you find in rural communities is you don’t have the breadth and scope of opportunities as you have in larger communities.”
Rachelle Hadland, who represents the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities, said the state cut 15 percent from service providers during the Great Recession, and while small increases of 1 percent to 2 percent were restored over the last 10 years, they’re still down 6 percent.
Reimbursement for service providers is not adequate, Hadland added. They are paid 26 percent below recommended reimbursement to deliver those services. Based on current numbers, the full amount needed to keep service providers around the state in business is $73.8 million.
Agencies such as Achieve have struggled to recruit and retain quality staff, and Prop. 206 makes the situation significantly worse, Carr said.
Staff turnover was around 56 percent prior to Prop. 206 and as high as 80 percent in smaller labor pools, she said.
Providers paid $8.91 an hour on average, slightly above the previous minimum wage, to stay competitive with big-box retailers and fast-food restaurants that pay a comparable wage with arguably less stress.
“Put yourself in the shoes of a direct care worker,” Carr said. “For $10 an hour, you could be responsible for the day-to-day care of another human being, which typically includes feeding, toileting and managing that individual’s behaviors, or you could flip burgers for the same amount. Which would you choose?”
The Achieve community is devastated over the closure of the Kingman office, Carr said.
“We can only hope this closure will serve as a herald of what is to come if state legislators do not prioritize an increase in state funding for the care of those with developmental disabilities so that others do not have to experience the same loss of services,” she said.
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