The Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee wrapped up the first week of the 2021 Legislative Session reviewing DCFS caseworker pay. During their meeting on January 22, the committee discussed the challenges DCFS is experiencing with the high rate of caseworker turnover and heard public comments of the negative impact turnover has on families. Low caseworker salaries cause high turnover rates and many work multiple jobs to support their own families. Many caseworkers are leaving State of Utah employment to work for private agencies or other states with significantly higher salaries for these positions. Senator Jacob Anderegg, the new Senate Chair of the subcommittee, stated, “You have to pay people what they are worth. This is an area that is worth quite a bit.” House Chair, Representative Paul Ray, explained to new members of the committee they had approved a budget increase last session, but it was cut back, emphasizing “one of the things we’ll be working on this year is refunding that.”
Throughout the committee, the conversation kept coming back to caseworker pay. Representative Candice Pierucci explained to the committee she did the math, and by restoring the increase from last year, caseworkers would receive approximately an extra $258/month before taxes. She stated, “a raise is a raise, but I would love to see this be higher.” Rep. Pierucci is “in favor of restoring the cut, but would love to see an actual increase so that [caseworkers] can feel that difference.”
Rep. Ray acknowledged caseworkers have “the hardest job in government and probably the lowest salaries to go with that.” He supports Rep. Pierucci’s hope for a more significant increase for caseworkers and encouraged her to approach legislative leadership on the Executive Appropriations Committee with the support of the subcommittee chairs.
Representative Marsha Judkins has been working to increase caseworker salaries for the past two sessions. She has submitted a request for appropriations and “would like to work with everyone” to get caseworkers closer to the compensation they deserve.
UPEA is in strong support of this discussion and will be meeting with legislators on the subcommittee to encourage their support of a significant increase for caseworkers. If you are a DCFS caseworker, please contact your legislators about the challenges you face. If you have any questions, contact your UPEA employee representative.