Capitol Correspondence - 05.02.23

Senators Propose New Legislation to Address Direct Care Workforce Shortages

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Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), along with Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have proposed new legislation to address the ongoing staffing shortages within the direct care workforce. The Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act aims to support the recruitment, training, and retention of direct care workers and family caregivers.

The direct care workforce, which provides crucial support to older Americans, people with disabilities, and other Americans with chronic conditions, currently employs 4.7 million workers but is expected to grow by more than a million jobs by 2030. The shortage of staffing is putting additional pressure on family caregivers, who often live in poverty.

The Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration on Community Living (ACL), to award grants to states or other eligible entities for initiatives to build, retain, train, and otherwise promote the direct care workforce. It would also provide grants for states or other eligible entities for educational and training support for both paid and unpaid family caregivers.

The legislation would direct ACL to develop a center to offer technical assistance to grant awardees and other entities interested in direct care workforce development and in supporting family caregivers. The center would work with states, key stakeholders, and other interested entities to establish career development and advancement strategies for direct care professionals, explore workforce shortage areas for direct care professionals, develop recommendations for training and education curricula, and disseminate information and best practices.

The proposed legislation is also included in Senator Casey’s HCBS Access Act and is a significant step towards ensuring that paid caregivers can receive family-sustaining wages and continue to provide essential care to older adults and people with disabilities. The act will invest in recruitment and retention strategies such as better pay and benefits, education and training enhancements, and better career advancement opportunities, which will help address the workforce shortage and provide more families with the care they need.