Wolf’s Minimum Wage Increase Excludes Human Services Workers

Mar 10, 2016

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday he'd be raising the minimum wage for government employees to $10.15/hour, but that increase did not include human service employees.
Credit Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

Earlier this week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.15 for workers under the governor’s jurisdiction, and some contractors.

In all, fewer than 500 of the state’s 79,000 workers will be impacted by the order – and those working in the human services sector are excluded altogether.

Wolf's spokesman Jeff Sheridan said that’s because human services agencies do not work for the state, but, rather, are paid on a contract-like basis. That means they would have to pull from their already underfunded budgets to meet the new minimum wage increase.

“They receive funding from the state government, like a contractor almost,” said Sheridan. “Primarily, funding goes to counties to reimburse human services agencies. They’re considered grants, not contracts.”

Sheridan said the governor wants human services workers to earn a higher wage, but it’s the job of the legislature to pass a measure that impacts all Pennsylvanians.

“The governor did urge the legislature to raise the minimum wage and that would be part of a final budget agreement that would restore funding to human services agencies,” said Sheridan. “Right now, they simply cannot afford it, because the state has cut funding for them consistently over the past several years.”

In 2012, then-Governor Tom Corbett cut human services funding by 10 percent. Past budgets show that after two years of cuts (between 2011-12 and 2012-13), money allotted for the Human Services Development Fund remained steady for two years (between 2013-14 and 2014-15), with a proposed increase in the 2015-16 budget, which legislators have yet to pass. 

The $10.15 wage lines up with President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order for federal contract workers to be paid at least $10.10, with a reexamination each year to align with the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Most Pennsylvania workers and contractors are seasonal, such as tax clerks and temporary clerical workers.

Any executive order can be amended or rescinded by a future governor.