Wage Parity for Direct Support Staff

Community placements for people with developmental disabilities are in crisis. As of Fall 2014, there are 73 individuals approved for Supported Living statewide who have not yet been placed. Supported Living providers cannot retain enough staff at the near minimum wage funded by the legislature to serve additional clients. Providers are fighting to provide quality service to their current clients, and providers and clients are facing staff turnover rates on average of 43.2%. Of all the models for residential services for people with developmental disabilities in our state, Supported Living is funded at the lowest amount per client and employee wages are the lowest in the entire developmental disability system. This bottleneck in Washington’s services for people with developmental disabilities is forcing people who want to live in the community to either remain in institutions or families in crisis caring for their loved ones at home must stay in prolonged crises.  Supported Living provides the most economic savings for the state, but additional funding is critical.   Supported Living (including Group Homes) serves 79.5% of the caseload at 64% of the budget, while RHC’s serve 17.9% of the caseload at 33% of the budget. Of the 913 former RHC residents who are now receiving community-based residential services, 94% are served in Supported Living/Group Home settings.

Entry level wage for direct support professionals in Supported Living (including Group Homes)

  • $10.26 per hour  (only 79¢ above minimum wage),which leads to 43.2% turnover
  • $9.93 in rural counties (only 46¢ above minimum wage)
  • $9.47is Washington’s minimum wage in 2015

Entry level wage for direct support professionals in State Operated setting(SOLA) doing identical work

  • $13.32 per hour, which leads to 10.7% turnover
  • 29.8% difference in entry level wages

Over the last four years, Supported Living providers have been cut twice while wages for Home Care Workers have increased.

  • 2009 budget cut funding by 3%(decreases funding for wages & benefits by $.46 to $.49 per hour)
  • 2011 budget cut funding by 1% (Decreases funding for wages & benefits by $.15 to $.16 per hour)
  • 2014 budget increased funding by 30 cents (less than half of the cuts from the previous sessions)
  • Total decrease over last five years equals $.31 to $.35 per hour

The 2014-2015 budget increased the Home Care Agency Rate by $2.00 per hour and brought the entry level Home Care Worker wage to $11.56per hour. That’s $1.30 more per hour than direct support staff working with clients with higher support needs.  The total hourly rate for Home Care Agencies is now $22.84 while the full hourly reimbursement to Supported Living Agencies averages $18.71 (includes benchmark, administrative rate, professional services and transportation), a difference of $4.13.  To reach true parity with this funding, it would require over $29M GF-S annually.

Funding must be allocated to begin to address this inequity for Direct Support Staff in Supported Living:

  • Biennium GF-S Cost = $29.9M:  An increase to the benchmark funding for Direct Support Staff of $1.00per year to be commensurate with home care workers.

Funding for direct support wages will decrease turnover and improve continuity of care for individuals with developmental disabilities.  Ensuring Direct Support Staff wages are higher than the minimum wage and commensurate with Home Care Workers recognizes the value of service that Direct Support Staff provide.

Chronic long-term underfunding of Supported Living services in Washington negatively impacts people receiving supports, their families, and direct support staff, as well as people waiting for services.  While the minimum wage continues to receive cost of living increases, the legislature has neglected to provide the same inflationary increases to supported living, resulting in inequitable funding and a significant loss in revenue for staff wages (see chart below).  Between FY 2008 and FY 2014, the average inflationary adjustment for Supported Living was -0.29%, well below other services (see chart at the bottom of the page).


Losses Due to Under-Funded Inflation for Supported Living Services in Washington



FY   2008

FY   2009

FY   2010

FY   2011

FY   2012

FY   2013

FY   2014

Inflation   Rate funded for Supported Living


– 3.00%


– 1.00%




Inflation   Rate funded for Minimum Wage
















Underfunding   of Inflation Dollars









Total 7-Year Loss of Inflationary Funds To Supported Living Services  


Estimate of General Fund State Loss


Estimate of Federal Fund Loss



Average Annual Increases 2008 – 2014

Washington Provider Systems