Beshear gives Kentucky’s social workers a 10% raise, offers plan to quickly hire more
Starting next week, social workers employed by the state of Kentucky will receive a 10% raise. It’s a move Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday was a needed step to retain nearly 4,000 essential workers.
The raise, which will come through bumping eligible workers up one pay grade, will cost about $15 million. However, the governor told reporters the money was already in the budget.
“Unfortunately, part of the reason we’re able to do this is we’ve lost so many social workers,” Beshear said.
The raise takes effect next Thursday and will likely be seen on checks issued starting Jan. 15.
Beshear said the pay raises were just one step his administration is taking or proposing to acknowledge the hard work the state’s current social workers are doing, retain those individuals and help hire badly needed personnel.
The state will also launch an initiative to onboard social workers faster to ease the caseloads that burden current social workers. Under the plan, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will look to hire entry-level social workers and family support specialists within a week of submitting a job application.
“This is a major change,” Beshear said. “It’s been described to me as light-years faster and represents a strong push to get more folks in and up to speed quickly. If this work appeals to you out there, apply. Apply today… we hope that we see a flood of those applications.”
The governor added he will include a student loan forgiveness program in his budget proposal he’ll submit to the General Assembly for the 2022-23 fiscal year. He also wants to ensure they get “hero pay” for their efforts to maintain essential operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both of those items would require approval from the Republican-led legislature, which often has not seen eye-to-eye with the Democratic governor.
Shawnte West, a family services office supervisor in Louisville, said at the governor’s announcement that she’s been working for the Commonwealth for nearly 20 years. During her tenure, she’s seen social service programs often cut first from the state budget and reinstated last.
In addition, because of the low pay often associated with the work, West said that too many social workers are forced to take food stamps and other public assistance to make ends meet. She called the initiatives Beshear unveiled “a glimmer of hope” for the 3,922 social workers currently employed by the state.
“Social workers and social service support staff need to feel the love back and that we are cared for as we care for others, and we have definitely felt that today,” she said.
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