Hoping to stem the exodus of state social workers over the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has announced that thousands of the essential workers have started receiving a 10% pay bump this month.
Praising social workers’ “heroism” and “compassion” during the 2-year-old health crisis, the Democratic governor said the pay bump will be covered from about $15 million in unspent state funds.
About 600 social workers serving disadvantaged families and the elderly left their jobs with the Department of Community Based Services since January, according to WLKY.
“For far too long, our social workers have not been … monetarily valued as they should be,” Beshear said at a news conference. “Low pay, long hours, crushing caseloads have led to poor morale and high turnover in addition to a backlog of cases.” Beshear also said the state would not only seek to replace those who have quit, but will also accelerate the pace of hiring and pursue a college loan forgiveness program and a bonus for the workers.
Beshear also plans to ask lawmakers to work on and fund a loan forgiveness program for social workers, WLKY reported. This came after the governor met with a group of social workers overwhelmed with high caseloads and low pay — conditions in the field that are common nationwide.
The Department of Community Based Services Commissioner Marta Miranda-Straub thanked Beshear for recognizing the social workers’ contribution with a meaningful pay increase.
“These folks can work for Target and Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s for double what the state pays them when they have to have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree,” Miranda-Straub told KLKY.
On average, Kentucky social workers starting pay is about $34,000 a year. The pay increase took effect Dec. 16.