Key Training Center hard hit financially by new minimum wage hike | Local News

October 2022 is looming for Key Training Center, the organization that provides housing and employment for most Citrus County residents with developmental disabilities.

Last October was a good indicator of what is to come.

Indeed, on October 1, the first installment of a Florida voter-approved increase to the state’s minimum wage went into effect, raising the minimum wage from $8.65 an hour to $10. The rate will increase each October by $1 per hour until it reaches $15 in October 2026.

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Many Key Training Center employees were earning less than $10 an hour before last October. When the minimum wage increase went into effect, Key Training Center hadn’t budgeted any money, said Melissa Walker, executive director of Key Training Center.

Key Training Center Adult Day Training Program participant Michael Taylor is assisted by Key Center staff member Becca Robertson on Friday, December 3. The Key Center has a contract with Ames, formerly ClosetMaid, where customers package parts that will be used for shelving.

The association has approximately 280 employees, 185 of whom work directly with clients.

“For us … it was an extra $400,000 a year to get everyone to the $10 plus raise of others (hourly wages),” Walker said. “It wasn’t in the budget, so we had to come up with $400,000.”

The organization’s budget is $13 million per year. About 60% comes from state coffers and the rest from Key Training Center thrift stores, public donations and whatever grants the organization can find and qualify for.

Walker had only one option, to tap deep into the organization’s reserves and get the money there.

Walker said the contingency fund had about $900,000 and it’s now down to $500,000. The problem is that Key Training Center’s salary budget is around $500,000 a month, so what’s left in the reserves doesn’t make up much of the emergency reserve.

The organization provides services, such as the provision of meaningful work, to nearly 300 people with intellectual disabilities. Of these, 145 live in accommodation at the Key Training Center and are cared for by the organization’s direct care staff.

Walker’s concern is that when the next minimum wage increase in October takes place, the Key Training Center will run out of money. In effect, the additional $400,000 Key Training Center paid out for wages in October 2021 is happening again in 2022. And that will be on top of the new October 2022 minimum wage hike of another $100,000. time.

Key Center staff suffer 3

Key training center customers work from their adult day training program in Lecanto. The Key Center is facing staff shortages and rising costs due to the pandemic. These challenges have created challenges for the program that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities.

“If something doesn’t happen with the Legislative Assembly next year, we will have to take a serious look at our services and possibly reduce them, which we have never done before,” she told the Chronicle.

Other organizations of this type face the same dilemmas. Some have started to close as last year they saw no financial increase from the state and struggled with COVID-19, sick staff and customers and health issues. ‘hiring.

Between March and October, 105 group homes closed, according to the News Service of Florida. The state now has fewer than 2,200 group homes.

Walker said most of his residential customers have lived in their current homes for several years and closing one would be too disruptive. Many are aging and need specialist care as well as stable family life, she said.

Walker and others who lead such organizations hope that Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson, a Republican from Trilby, will follow through on plans to raise salaries for direct support professionals before 2026 and that the state will report the impact on providers of the minimum wage increase.

“In my opinion, people who spend their careers caring for people with unique abilities and other vulnerable Floridians deserve our admiration and respect, and my goal would be to make sure we bring them to $15 as well. the hour before the required deadline.” Simpson said, according to the news agency.

“The problem is that it has been difficult to assess how much money this will actually take and where it needs to go, which is why we have asked agencies to identify these positions and report back to us before the next session” , did he declare. .

Worse still for the Key Training Center, and other similar organizations, is that they have to compete for staff against hospitals and nursing homes, which have higher reimbursement rates from the State.

“It’s hard work. They could be making over $10 an hour working somewhere else,” Walker said.

To help make ends meet, the Key Center Foundation operates four thrift stores in Citrus County for the Center. They generate about $800,000 in revenue per year after paying expenses. The Foundation plans to open a fifth in Wildwood, Sumter County. Walker also plans to provide some qualified residency services there, she said.

She hopes the store will generate around $100,000 in first-year revenue when it opens in 2022.

Walker also hopes Florida will move forward with its plan to send $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act money to be used for Floridians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The money cannot be used for salaries because the funds do not recur, but could perhaps be used for hiring bonuses, staff bonuses or stipends, Walker said.

“But it’s a one-time solution,” she said. “We need (long-term) help,” she said.

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