HELENA — Charles Asmus, a child protective specialist in Montana, told the House State Administration Committee Wednesday that he’ll owe about $190,000 after he gets his doctorate. But, he already has a caseload of over 25 families and only gets paid about $2,000 a month.
Asmus was one of four testifying in support of House Bill 339, sponsored by Rep. Eric Moore (R-Miles City). The measure would repay up to $12,000 of student loan debt over three years for child protective specialists, who investigate reports of child abuse and neglect in the state. Asmus said the aid is a necessary incentive to keep and hire professionals in a job with high turnaround.
“It is critical that our state hires qualified and educated individuals who are going to be in it for the long haul,” he said.
The bill would cost about $1 million every two years in state funding. Eric Feaver with the Montana Federation of Public Employees said the incentive is a step in the right direction, but only just a step. He said Montana should better compensate employees with emotionally distressing jobs.
“We just basically don’t pay our state employees enough to do the work they do. Our expectations are extraordinarily high,” Feaver said. “Folks who work in critical positions with real people and dangerous and dysfunctional circumstances where abuse is hard to endure. They especially are just not being rewarded through their careers. ”
There were no opponents and the committee did not immediately vote on the bill.
-Tim Pierce reporting for the UM Legislative News Service, University of Montana School of Journalism
Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.