AUGUSTA — Municipalities and advocacy groups for home health care and long-term care workers say they’re bracing for the impact of a minimum wage hike approved by Maine voters last fall.

Leaders of the health care groups say they will continue to ask the state for increased MaineCare reimbursement rates as the minimum wage inches from $7.50 last year up to $12 by 2020, when it will be tied to the consumer price index. This year, it’s at $9.

Meanwhile, municipalities say the biggest impact will be for seasonal and temporary employees such as lifeguards or concession workers. Todd Souza, recreation director for Wiscasset, told town officials in December that membership rates would go up in July and that he’d be looking at after-school programs and consolidating positions to deal with the “four-year challenge” of the wage hike.

Eric Conrad of the Maine Municipal Association said the impact for taxpayers “won’t be great in the overall scheme” because most municipal employees make more than the minimum wage. Presque Isle City Manager Martin Puckett estimated the hike would cost the city $8,000 out of its $10 million budget this year.

Other local officials said they’re worried the hike will make it harder to find part-time workers for those jobs. Salary scales will also have to be adjusted as employees with different levels of responsibilities start earning the same wage, Souza told officials.

Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the city is facing similar issues with its own hike to $10.10 per hour in 2016, which it estimated would cost about $45,000.

“It’s now harder to find workers to fill those jobs,” Grondin said, referring to seasonal employees and concession workers.

In states such as New York and Arizona, moves to increase the minimum wage have caused concern among home care providers about whether legislators would also allocate enough money to pay higher wages for workers. In 2015,

Massachusetts became the first state to institute a statewide minimum wage for home health care workers.

In Maine, minimum wage hikes in some cities have already challenged home health care agencies.

“We have to pay them Portland’s minimum wage, but if they go to Windham, we pay them another wage,” said Vicki Sebell of the Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine. “It’s a nightmare.”

Sebell said a study commissioned by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services found MaineCare providers were underpaid by over $18 million with no reimbursement increases in 15 years.

Richard Erb, president of the Maine Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted living facilities, said the hike could worsen an already difficult worker shortage in the rapidly aging state.

“In our facilities, we have seen nursing homes that have to turn down new admissions only because they cannot staff to meet their needs,” Erb said, adding that he’s aware of “several thousand hours of unmet need per day for home-care workers.”

The average hourly wage for direct care workers is about $9, according to Sebell, while Erb said personal support specialists who provide hands-on care in long-term facilities make just over $10.

The roughly 4,000 certified nursing assistants working in Maine nursing homes make over $11 an hour on average, with wages lower in rural areas.

Sebell and Erb said the minimum wage hike will make it harder to compete with retail and fast food industries.

“For many people, working at Wal-Mart is a lot easier than going in someone’s home and assisting them with the aging process,” Sebell said.

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