With upcoming changes to the federal overtime exemption rule estimated to cost community-based providers more than $1 billion, the Disability Community Act is critical to stabilize the disability services workforce
WASHINGTON, D.C. – ANCOR, Easterseals and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), the leading national nonprofits providing and advocating for services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), applaud today’s bipartisan introduction by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) of the Disability Community Act, a critically needed response to a proposed increase to the overtime salary threshold announced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in September.
The Disability Community Act would increase the federal Medicaid match to states for I/DD services over a three-year period to help providers cover the costs of complying with the potential DOL rule change and other recent regulatory proposals that have the potential to further threaten access to community-based I/DD services. On its own, DOL’s new rulemaking is estimated to impose over $1 billion in additional expenses for disability service providers in the first year alone if implemented as proposed.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Representatives Tonko and Fitzpatrick for their bipartisan collaboration on the Disability Community Act,” said Barbara Merrill, CEO of ANCOR. “This legislation recognizes that Medicaid-funded services are endangered by a dire workforce shortage and lack of federal investment, and could be further hamstrung by regulatory changes with substantial fiscal impacts. ANCOR and our network of nearly 2,500 community providers are committed to supporting the passage of this crucial legislation, and we call on all members of the House of Representatives to join in support of the Disability Community Act.”
The proposed rule change, though well-intentioned, did not account for the fact that community-based providers who support people with I/DD are almost entirely funded by Medicaid, which sets reimbursement rates for services and has restricted providers’ ability to raise wages on their own. Insufficient Medicaid reimbursement rates have directly led to a serious workforce crisis as the private sector has raised hourly wages and providers cannot compete to attract and retain talent for these physically and emotionally demanding jobs.
“Easterseals’ 70 affiliates across the country work every day to provide vital services to people who need them. We applaud Representative Tonko for his leadership on this critical issue,” said Easterseals President & CEO, Kendra Davenport. “Everyone in our country deserves to be paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. But we can’t further burden providers who are already stretching every dollar to service people in their communities. Disability services providers have been underfunded for decades. If our expenses are going to rise, so must our funding. This bipartisan legislation will do just that, by allocating additional funding so providers can afford the increase in costs that will come with the new Department of Labor regulations without sacrificing care for those who need it.”
Currently, service providers across the country are already turning away new referrals and discontinuing programs and services at an alarming rate due to the workforce crisis.
“The Disability Community Act is an enormously welcome, bipartisan endorsement of the decades-long push to boost wages for millions of disability support professionals and other caregivers nationwide,” said UCP’s President & CEO Armando Contreras. “Representatives Tonko and Fitzpatrick’s bipartisan bill does a great job of addressing the pressing need to expand Medicaid funding for thousands of providers, including UCP affiliates across the US, and ensure they’re sufficiently resourced to serve the disability community’s growing needs.”
Providers have warned that adding the financial strain of various regulatory changes, including increasing the salary threshold for overtime exemption, without additional funding has the potential to inadvertently lead to more significant cuts in services for people with I/DD.
“In addition to the ongoing direct support workforce crisis, community providers are also grappling with the wind-down of critical pandemic relief funding and the expiration of regulatory flexibilities meant to help temper the impact of the workforce shortage,” added Merrill. “The bipartisan leadership of Representatives Fitzpatrick and Tonko couldn’t come at a more dire time. Without solutions like the Disability Community Act, community providers will have no choice but to discontinue services or close their doors completely.”
Together, ANCOR, Easterseals and UCP represent thousands of disability service providers, and their affiliate networks and member organizations serve every corner of the United States.
For more than 50 years, ANCOR has been a leading advocate for the critical role service providers play in enriching the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As a national nonprofit trade association, ANCOR represents nearly 2,500 organizations employing more than a half-million professionals who together serve more than a million individuals with I/DD. Our mission is to advance the ability of our members to support people with I/DD to fully participate in their communities.
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