A Significant Wage Increase for Our Exceptional DSPs - Penn-Mar

A Significant Wage Increase for Our Exceptional DSPs

Posted on July 24, 2023

By Gregory T. Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Human Services | Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Foundation
CEO Greg Miller's headshot

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

Between the difficulties we faced during the COVID pandemic and the subsequent staffing shortages, we have asked a lot of our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) over the last three years.

They responded to these challenges by performing at exceptional levels to support the people with disabilities in their care and not a day went by that I wasn’t determined to see that Penn-Mar would continue to do everything in our power to find a way to raise our DSP wages.

On July 1, that day finally came.

As the leader of an organization whose mission is to provide the very best team members to support people with disabilities, you can imagine my ongoing frustration with our government’s inability to provide a living wage for our DSPs.

We have had to rely on our Foundation’s fundraising efforts to help bridge the gap and have invested heavily in the Career Ladders Program to give our DSPs the chance to acquire professional credentials and increased compensation. But the wage issue continues to threaten our mission.

We ended this fiscal year in a strong financial position as a direct result of some very smart business decisions, including the success of our “Building Bold Futures” fundraising campaign and our foresight to be an early adopter of a beneficial new funding system from the State of Maryland.

So, several months ago, I reached out to our Board Chair to build consensus on where our investments should be channeled in the new fiscal year, beginning July 1.

We concluded that our most important investment needed to be in our team members, and carved out $3 million annually to dedicate to wage increases.

This will not be a one-time increase; it is an ongoing commitment and investment in our workforce that will build a solid foundation for the future of our organization.

Let me make two things clear:

  1. None of the DSP wage increases will be coming from the Building Bold Futures Campaign funds. Those funds are being used where designated by donors into specific appeal categories. As a result, we have freed up more capital for our daily operating fund, which includes wages.
  2. The new funding system from the State of Maryland has assisted us in making this wage investment, and even though funding shortfalls in Pennsylvania are making it very challenging to do this, all of Penn-Mar’s DSPs – in both Maryland and Pennsylvania – will benefit from our organization’s success as a whole.

To get DSP wages to a better, more competitive position, we worked with a consulting company to conduct a market survey to analyze our hourly rates and used that information to move forward aggressively.

In the process, we have rescaled several other positions within the organization to be more in line with the current market and are trying to get as close as possible to leading the industry in DSP wages.

This substantial investment squarely addresses — and will help resolve — the challenges we have had filling vacancies and retaining DSP staff.

Higher starting wages will attract more people to the organization. The increases being passed on to all team members, based on their current compensation and work assignments, will help us retain our outstanding workforce, who are well-deserving of this increase to their earnings.

I am excited that we are able to make this important investment. I am grateful to all of our team members for their commitment to our mission and for the sacrifices they continually make on behalf of the people with disabilities they support. And I am extremely confident that our best days are right in front of us! 

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