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Kaine Introduces Legislation to Support Direct Care Workforce & Family Caregivers

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act to authorize over $1 billion in supporting the direct care workforce and family caregivers. Given low wages and high turnover, the direct care workforce has long experienced staffing shortages. Now, with a growing number of older adults and people with disabilities in the U.S. and following the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in our direct care workforce and family caregivers to support people in their homes and communities is more important than ever before. The bill aligns with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which calls for substantial investments to meet the growing demand for home and community-based services.

Currently, 4.5 million workers – including nearly 2.3 million home care workers – make up the direct care workforce, and this industry is expected to grow by more than a million jobs by 2028, not including the jobs that will need to be filled as existing workers leave the field or exit the labor force. Better pay and benefits, strategies to recruit and retain professionals in the field, education and training enhancements, and better career advancement opportunities are some of the investments needed to meet the demands of this workforce shortage.

The shortage of direct care workers often puts pressure on family caregivers. The number of American caregivers providing unpaid caregiving has increased over the past 5 years, and 23% of caregivers say that caregiving has made their health worse.  

“Direct care workers and family caregivers provide critical support to older Americans, people with disabilities, and other individuals with chronic conditions,” said Senator Kaine. “Now more than ever, we must ensure they have the resources they need to continue their important work.”

“If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic lifted a veil and exposed how critically important America’s direct care workforce is for older Americans and people with disabilities who rely on them,” said Joseph Macbeth, President and CEO of National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, Inc. “The Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act will begin to address a decades-long failure in recruiting, training and educating, retaining, and advancing of direct care professionals and provide much needed support for family caregivers. This legislation will help us build a stable, competent and professional direct care workforce that supports millions of Americans to remain living at home and in their communities will go a long way in fulfilling the promises of the Olmstead Decision and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Specifically, 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, including self-directed workers and direct care supervisors or managers, and to provide grants for states or other eligible entities for educational and training support for both paid and unpaid family caregivers.
  • 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, aimed at collaboration across federal agencies. The assistance at the center includes:
    • Working with states, key stakeholders, and other interested entities to establish career development and advancement strategies for direct care professionals, which may include occupational frameworks, national standards, recruitment campaigns, pre-apprenticeship and on-the-job training opportunities, apprenticeship programs, career ladders or pathways, specializations or certifications, or other activities.
    • Exploring the national data gaps, workforce shortage areas, and data collection strategies for direct care professionals.
    • Developing recommendations for training and education curricula for direct care professionals and family caregivers.
    • Disseminating information and best practices from lessons learned through the grants.

To read the bill text for the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act, click here

Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) are original co-sponsors of the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act.

This legislation is supported by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), the ARC of the United States, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, Inc. (NADSP), PHI, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).