One of the definitions of essential, according to Webster’s dictionary is: “of the utmost importance.”

Oh really?

Here we sit, eight months into a global pandemic and what has the state, or federal government, done to help those working with developmental disabilities?

Short answer: nothing.

The staff that support people with developmental disabilities are the epitome of “essential.” Next to doctors, nurses and CNA’s, the job of residential group home staff is next in line for “essential.”

These residential staff handle all aspects of helping another person live life. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

There is no “off-time.” There is no “long weekend.” There is no “working from home.”

As a state, we pay these staff the bare minimum. Multiple bills have been submitted to the Legislature increase the rates of pay for residential staff. Yet, they’re never funded through appropriations. Why?

Might it be because we, as a society, continue to devalue those with disabilities? Or because we allow the “louder voice” of organized labor unions drown out the voices of the disabled? And why doesn’t the news media report on this?

I call on all state legislators — Republicans and Democrats — to make funding increases for residential providers priority number one in the 130th Legislature. It is long past time that we treat Maine’s most vulnerable with the dignity and respect they deserve.

That starts with paying the staff that work with them a pay rate that is dignified and respectable.

Benjamin Martin, Sabattus

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