Salena Sawtelle pushes Ora Bartlet to the dining hall before breakfast at the Stillwater Health Care facility in Bangor in this 2017 file photo. Credit: Gabor Degre

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Gov. Janet Mills is accelerating by three months a pay raise for personal care workers in Maine.

In a press release, Mills notes that Mainers in need of personal care, including the elderly, may face higher risks from the new coronavirus. So she is boosting pay, starting April 1, for some 20,000 personal support specialists, home health aides, private-duty nurses and others workers in the field.

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Laurie Belvin, executive director for the Homecare and Hospice Alliance of Maine, said personal care workers are playing a key role in keeping vulnerable people away from potentially dangerous group settings.

“Whether it’s a hospital to get acute care or into nursing home or residential care where there is a higher risk of exposure to COVID. So keeping them at home where they are safer, where they want to be and continue to do the care is critical, and in order to do that we need to keep these caregivers employed, and give them the wage to keep them,” she said. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.

State officials did not immediately provide information on the value of the pay increase. Mills also announced that the state’s Meals on Wheels program would get an $800,000 boost thanks to a new federal allotment.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.