Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday an immediate 10% pay raise for all Kentucky social workers and family support staff beginning Dec. 16. It’s one of three initiatives the Beshear Administration is taking to attract and retain social workers and grow their workforce across the state.
“We are here today to celebrate Kentucky’s amazing social workers, to recognize the significant number of resignations we’ve seen in their ranks, and to do something about it,” Beshear said.
The pay raise will affect 3,922 employees across the state and totals out to about $15 million. The funds come from leftover dollars the Beshear administration had already budgeted for social workers but was left unspent due to a high number of resignations or positions that have remained unfilled.
“We are so happy today that there’s some progress,” family services office supervisor Shawnte West said. “We have so many social workers and support staff that have to work second jobs just to be able to maintain and make it through, so this going to allow them to take a break sometimes and not have to be forced to continue to do a second job when they leave the first one. That’s very taxing and trying at times,” West said.
Last month, dozens of social workers rallied on the Capitol steps protesting working conditions. West was one of a number of social workers who met and shared concerns with Beshear.
“This wouldn’t have been happening without the advocacy of our social workers themselves,” Beshear said.
In addition to the raises, the Beshear administration is also launching a pilot program to speed up the hiring process for social workers. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is aiming to get entry-level social workers and family support staff hired within seven days of applying.
“This is a major change, I think 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, apply. Apply today and you can be hired within a week,” Beshear said.
The third part of Beshear’s plan involves establishing a loan forgiveness program. Throughout their career, social workers must also continue to further their education and earn additional degrees. Beshear is including this in his upcoming budget, as well as additional dollars to create more social worker positions.
“We not only would have to fill in all the open spots of folks that we’ve lost but above- in addition to that we need to hire at least 300 additional social workers to get the caseload to where it needs to be,” Beshear said.
Beshear noted his administration’s previous efforts to provide more funding for social workers, including $31.6 million in his first budget to hire 350 social workers and $7 million earmarked in 2020 for additional social worker positions, retention, and salary increases.
“I’m sorry to say that in these instances the General Assembly did not agree and did not provide anything in the place of those areas of the budget that they removed. I could not disagree more,” Beshear said.