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

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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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