No good options [Letter]

Much of the debate over the minimum wage in Maryland this year has focused more on increasing the pay for those who care for people with disabilities ("Still no wage agreement in Annapolis," March 25).

The chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee, Thomas Middleton, has urged his committee to consider an increase in the pay for an estimated 18,000 caregivers for developmentally disabled Marylanders, the majority of whom are state employees.

The House of Delegates rejected an amendment by Delegate Patrick N. Hogan that would have exempted employees receiving federal Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Five Democratic delegates crossed the party lines to support this amendment.

Not having an exemption for working SSDI recipients could be a serious fiscal blow to Maryland's budget. According to the state Department of Disabilities, the number of SSDI recipients age 18-64 in Maryland was 135,798 in 2012.

A SSDI recipient with a mild disability condition is allowed to work and retain the benefit as long he or she is making less than $1,070 per month.

At present, such employees can work up to 34 hours a week at the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 while receiving full SSDI benefits and Medicare. Under the state's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, he or she could not work more than 25.8 hours a week – a loss of almost 10 hours.

If Maryland moves to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a working SSDI recipient will face two choices: Either continue to working at the $10.10 wage while losing the SSDI benefit and Medicare, or resign from any job that requires more than 25 hours a week.

Howard L. Gorrell

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