How will this impact Habilitation and Respite Providers?
The prop 206 minimum wage change is set to have an immediate impact. Starting January 1, 2017 minimum wage will be increased to $10 per hour. While the prop will increase minimum wage even higher over the coming years, Absolute HCBS wanted to discuss what habilitation and respite providers can expect at the start of the New Year.
There is a vast number of agencies in Arizona who provide respite and habilitation services. The pay rates among these agencies vary as much as the reasons why. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of profit margins, underlying expenses, or scale of business—some of these agencies will not be able to absorb the increase in the minimum wage and will be forced to close their doors.
We are pleased to tell you that is not the case for Absolute HCBS. Our current pay rates meet or exceed the upcoming increase. So if you are a current respite or habilitation provider, take a deep breath, we are in good standing. We are also working to make our operations more efficient and grow the company at an increased rate. These actions will further support the job safety of our habilitation and respite providers, as well as offer stability for the clients we serve as additional increases to minimum wage take place in the coming years.
It is unfortunate that other agencies will not be able to manage the change like Absolute. Yes, we are a business, and yes, they are our competitors. But this is not a field for those without compassion and a genuine desire to serve. We do this because we care about each individual with developmental disabilities. Closing doors means individuals missing out on services. Closing doors means loss of providers, loss of relationships that consumers cherish. While we are grateful our community of respite and hab providers is secure, we are concerned about those that may go without.
Change can also create an opportunity for new relationships and ways to continue current ones. It is likely that many providers and prop 206 minimum wage individuals with developmental disabilities will be looking for a new agency to call home. Finding one that will be able to handle not just the current increase but has a firm footing for embracing the ongoing increases over the next 4 years will enable security and stability for providers and consumers alike. Absolute HCBS would enjoy serving all individuals in need but to be honest, we are not the only quality agency.
So if you have to change agencies, how do you decide where is the right place to go? Here are some questions to help you narrow the field:
What were the agency’s rates for each service prior to prop 206 being passed?
This matters because if an agency already took a hit having to increase rates for the first minimum wage bump, they may struggle to stay afloat with the schedule of future increases. Finding an agency that already offered more than what was required may also be a good indicator of how they treat their providers in general.
How long have they been in business?
While how long their doors have been open may not be a perfect gauge on the quality of service you will receive, it can be an indicator on their ability to handle change. Previous years saw DDD budget cuts that resulted in tight margins for HCBS agencies and some could not survive. If they made it through that, there is a good chance they have the discipline and skill to stick around.
Be careful with this though as businesses in any field may exist simply because they have been around and use that as their defining characteristic. Make sure to follow up with the next question to better judge why or how they have lasted!
What changes or strategies are in place to allow the agency to be a leader in this field?
We’re not talking trade secrets or highly detailed business plans, but if all you get is hums and haws that could be an indication the company is lacking clarity and direction—both of which are key elements to a company that is thriving rather than just handing on. What is shared can also illustrate if they do things because it is what has always been done, or if they have an approach that will flow with changes in technology, communication, and other key aspects of working with habilitation and respite providers.
How large is the agency?
Small business is a relative term. You’d be hard pressed to find a national brand or chain in this field because of the differences in state laws. Agencies range in size from serving a dozen clients to several hundred clients. In theory, a larger agency has the ability to spread out costs over the greater field of consumers. Think of it this way, if you and a friend go buy a pizza together, you may each pay $10. Whereas if you and three friends go buy a pizza, you would each only pay $5 putting less strain on your wallet….even if it means less pizza in your mouth!
How is the agency connected in the community?
Successful business and a desirable work environment revolve around relationships. This may not be a question to ask the agency directly but to ask yourself as you do a little homework. Look into non-profit organizations such as Sharing Down Syndrome, Down Syndrome Network, Best Buddies, Arizona Autism Coalition, and others. Reach out to these organizations via phone call or email and see what common threads exist. What agency names come up multiple times? Good relationships are a positive indicator of an agency’s core principles and values. Isn’t that the type of agency with whom you’d like to work?
Life is full of change which leads to opportunities and challenges. Prop 206 minimum wage and the increase to Arizona’s minimum wage is no different. Whether you are a habilitation or respite provider, or a family supporting an individual with developmental disabilities, we encourage you to be proactive in preparing your preferred path. Are you as excited about your future as we are?