On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Aging Committee held a hearing titled Uplifting Families, Workers, and Older Adults: Supporting Communities of Care. The hearing emphasized the importance of home- and community-based services for people with disabilities and aging individuals and how the direct support workforce crisis threatens the sustainability of those services. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the committee, opened the hearing with a statement acknowledging the workforce crisis and citing the 2023 Case for Inclusion report, which was co-authored by ANCOR and released last week.
ANCOR supported the committee by submitting testimony for the hearing, along with testimony from five ANCOR members: Linda Timmons, President and CEO of Mosaic; Angela King, CEO of Volunteers of America (Texas); Darlene Scott, President and CEO of The Phoenix Residence, Inc.; Dahlian Porter, Senior Vice President of Program Services at ADAPT Community Network; and Barry Simon, President and CEO of Oak Hill and Easterseals of Oak Hill.
Witnesses for the hearing included Dr. Kezia Scales, Vice President of Research & Evaluation at the Paraprofessional Health Institute (PHI); Dr. Hannah Maxey, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Director of the Bowen Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy at Indiana University School of Medicine; Jacinta Burgess, a direct care worker; and ANCOR member Pam Lowy, Executive Director at Great Bay Services.
Ms. Lowy spoke about her experience as a provider, saying that the inability to pay direct support professionals a living wage has greatly impacted the ability to provide consistent supports to people in the community. She stated that “[s]taff in our field are financially struggling, barely making ends meet, but constantly agonizing over what would happen to the people we support if they don’t come to work.”
Ms. Burgess also provided powerful testimony about her experience as a direct care professional caring for her mother, noting that the “severe shortage of home care workers forces many working families to choose between caring for a loved one and a paycheck.”
Dr. Scales made an economic argument for investing in home- and community-based services, saying that investing in the direct care workforce is critical for stabilizing and sustaining not only the workforce, but also local economies. She stated that such an investment would “lift existing workers out of poverty and financial precarity” and “help overcome services gaps and ensure continuity and quality of care for consumers.”
Senator Casey also reinforced the need for investing in the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program by noting that he was introducing the HCBS Access Act. He stated that “[i]t is time we make the smart economic investment in home and community-based services. My HCBS Access Act would provide seniors and people with disabilities with a real and significant choice between receiving care in a long-term care facility or at home, where so many of them wish to stay, and ensure that paid caregivers can turn poverty[-inducing] jobs into family-sustaining jobs.”
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