Montana public health workers get historic pay raise funded by economic relief law - TAI News
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Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services announced on Jan. 17 that it would provide a wage increase and bonus pay for employees at health care facilities run by the state, as well as a one-time incentive payment for new employees.

Among the employees who will see their pay increased are registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and technicians involved in mental health care. The eligible facilities include Montana State Hospital, the Montana Veterans’ Home, the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center, the Intensive Behavior Center, and the Montana Chemical Dependency Center.

Registered nurses will receive a $4-per-hour wage increase, licensed practical nurses will get a $1.75-per-hour increase, and technicians will be paid $2 more per hour. Employees will also receive a one-time $7,500 retention bonus.

The department said funding for the incentive program and wage increases would come from the 2021 American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

“Through a new incentive program, bonuses, and historic pay increases, we aim to continue strengthening operations at our state-run health care facilities by hiring and retaining staff dedicated to providing our valued patients with safe, high-quality care. I urge anyone interested in joining our health care facilities team to visit and apply for a meaningful, impactful job with us,” Charlie Brereton, the department’s director, said in a statement.

The Rescue Plan was passed in response to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Montana reached 11.3% unemployment in April 2020, the highest level recorded for the state since the bureau began recording state data in 1976. The current unemployment rate is 3.2%.

When the Rescue Plan passed in March 2021, Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte called it a “fiscally irresponsible progressive wish list” and said it “bails out states mismanaging their budget.” Gianforte oversees the department that is providing the wage increases and bonuses and appointed Brereton to be its director in 2022. The governor has been criticized for opposing the law and then touting the benefits Montana has received under it.

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester voted for the Rescue Plan when it was being debated in Congress in March 2021. Tester’s vote was critical to the bill’s passage in the Senate, where it faced unanimous opposition from Republicans and was passed by a vote of 50-49.

“The bottom line is that this package will allow us to get this virus under control, get folks back to work, fully reopen our schools and reopen our economy,” Tester told reporters.

Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, the Republican members of the Montana congressional delegation, voted against the bill.

“Shoveling all this money into an economy that is on the rebound is deeply irresponsible & will cause our debt to soar to new heights. Montana taxpayers deserve better,” Daines tweeted in March 2021.Rosendale has referred to the bill as the “Democrat COVID Boondoggle.” He is reportedly planning to run for the Senate seat currently held by Tester.

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