Last week the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 767 marking September 11–17, 2022 as National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week. The resolution was led by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). It was co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Senator Cardin’s statement about the resolution highlighted the important work direct support professionals perform, including honoring ANCOR DSP of the Year Award winners Maria Swift of Penn-Mar Human Services and Tammy Wright of Consumer Direct Network. In his statement, Senator Cardin also called for the creation of a standard occupational classification for direct support professionals.
I rise today to mark the week beginning on September 11, 2022, as National Direct Support Professionals
Recognition Week. Direct support professionals assist millions of individuals living with disabilities to perform a wide range of essential daily tasks such as meal preparation, transportation, and medication management. Direct support professionals provide critical home- and community-based services–HCBS–that allow individuals to stay connected with their communities.
As direct support professionals stepped up during the pandemic and provided care while facing increased personal risks as frontline workers, many faced long-standing difficulties such as inadequate wages and benefits. These challenges disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, who comprise 62 percent of the home care workforce, which includes direct support professionals. These issues have led to high turnover and vacancy rates, contributing to a growing shortage of direct support professionals. Even as this shortage persists and millions of jobs in the field remain open, demand for direct support professionals is expected to increase by at least 1.4 million new direct care jobs by 2026, according to PHI. An insufficient number of direct support professionals will likely mean longer wait lists for individuals seeking assistance, force providers to turn away new referrals, or discontinue programs and services. These circumstances hurt quality of care and put further stress on family caregivers.
Under President Biden’s leadership, we have taken steps to invest in home- and community-based services by building up the home care workforce and expanding access to care. I am proud to have voted for the American Rescue Plan Act, which–among many critical provisions–included $12.7 billion for HCBS. I am also a cosponsor of the Better Care Better Jobs Act, which would build on the funding from American Rescue Plan Act by continuing enhanced Medicaid funding for HCBS for States that expand access to these services and invest in the workforce, such as the direct support professionals.
It is more important than ever that we take the time to recognize the work of those who choose to be direct support professionals. I would like to congratulate two Marylanders who were recognized this year for their work as direct support professionals: Maria Swift of Penn-Mar Humans Services received the American Network of Community Options and Resources’ National Direct Support Professional of the Year Award and Tammy Wright of Consumer Direct Care Network received the Maryland State award. Maria and Tammy are making an enormous difference and I appreciate their service to others. I would also like to thank Senators Collins, Blumenthal, Brown, Casey, Kaine, King, Klobuchar, Menendez, Smith, Van Hollen, and Warren for joining me in showing our appreciation for direct support professionals across the Nation and recognizing the essential role they play in our healthcare system.
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