FIA Workers Testify Virtually to the Maryland Legislature

Last Friday, two members of AFSCME Local 112, the Maryland Department of Social Services, testified at a budget hearing held virtually. Each department or state agency has an annual budget hearing in front of elected officials who sit on the committees overseeing their agency's budget. This year because of the pandemic these hearings are being conducted virtually.

In front of 24 members of the House and Senate, Sister April Tindall and Sister Velvet Whitehurst testified about the important work done by workers in the Family Investment Administration. Sister Tindall explained the importance of filling vacant positions to help frontline workers struggling under their growing workload.

She said, "I’m testifying today because I think my coworkers are doing a pretty remarkable job given how few resources we have and the obstacles we have to overcome daily with the technology we’re using.  I ask that you help us fill our vacancies so we can go back to being the resources we want to be for our customers and community. As we see with this budget, when positions stay vacant for too long—they get cut. We cannot afford to lose anymore positions; we’re already working with a skeleton crew. Thank you for listening, I plead that you help us."

Many workers just like April continued to report throughout the pandemic. As Sister Velvet explains, they are not doing this work to get rich. 

She explains, "I didn’t get into this line of work because I thought it would make me rich. But I did hope that it would at least allow me to pay bills and let me retire with dignity someday. I see how our seniors struggle with the $19/month in SNAP benefits we give them. In 21 years of State Service, I have only received 5 step increases. In 2000 when I started, my entry salary was $23,000. Adjusted for inflation, that’s roughly $35,000 today. Do you know what the starting salary for a Family Investment Specialist is today—$32,000, or just a little bit over $15/hr. We’re making less today, then we were 20 years ago. And we have 11 positions within the Family Investment Administration that start even lower. I’m glad that the FY 22 budget bumps those positions up to $15/hr because no one should be making less than that in 2021. But what happens to those of us who have been around for a while and are behind on our steps and don’t make much more than that? We’re struggling too. There’s nothing in the budget for us."

Both sisters did a courageous job speaking about the importance of their work and funding frontline workers. Stay tuned for more information about Maryland's budget!