Idaho VAs struggle to keep nurses as neighboring states raise minimum wage

The Idaho Division of Veterans Services requested hundreds of thousands of dollars to help retain nurses at Veterans Affairs facilities, citing difficulties due to an unchanging $7.25 per hour minimum wage while neighboring states raise minimums, the Post-Register reports.

All of Idaho's neighboring states, except Utah and Wyoming, have higher minimum wages, Marv Hagedorn, director of the Division of Veterans Services, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Jan. 10. Certified nursing assistants at the state's three veterans homes currently make an average of $13.48 per hour, while neighboring Washington increased minimum wage Jan. 1 to $13.50.

"We've got a huge deficit of nurses in Idaho right now and it's going to cost all of us," Mr. Hagedorn said.

For next year's budget, Mr. Hagedorn requested $155,300 for a "compensation market alignment"; $241,000 to reclassify nursing positions from licensed practical nurse to registered nurse; $1.3 million for additional staffing; and $50,000 to start a student loan repayment program for RNs.  

Republican Gov. Brad Little supported the request, with minor adjustments to some of the numbers.

Twenty-one states increased minimum wage rates at the start of the new year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  

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