A group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that not only focuses on improving conditions for professional caregivers, but family caregivers as well.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) — Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging — joined seven other senators in introducing the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act.
Broadly, the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act would make way for the recruitment, training and retention of professional and family caregivers. It would do so via grants and other initiatives.
The other lawmakers include, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The introduction of this legislation is an acknowledgement that professional and family caregivers deserve a significant federal investment, Robert Espinoza, executive vice president of policy at PHI, told Home Health Care News in an email.
“When direct care workers and family caregivers are better trained, and their recruitment and retention improve, caregivers as a whole are better equipped to support millions of older adults and people with disabilities,” he said. “Federal leaders have been increasingly sounding the alarm on the critical need to support direct care workers and family caregivers, and we hope this bill taps into that momentum and inspires Congress to act soon.”
In the past, PHI has been vocal about strong training as a possible solution for improving job quality for caregivers.
The bill’s focus also falls in line with the Home Care Association of America’s (HCAOA) key priorities.
“HCAOA is greatly appreciative of our legislators’ … continued focus on the direct care workforce and supporting family caregivers,” Vicki Hoak, CEO of HCAOA, told HHCN in an email. “These two issues are in our top priorities this year. It is reassuring to know that our leaders have heard our industry’s call for more funding and better care for older Americans and that they are taking action.”
If passed, the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act would provide grants to states and other relevant entities for initiatives that are meant to strengthen, educate and retain the caregiver workforce. The grants would be from the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration on Community Living (ACL).
On the family caregiver side, the bill also calls for the creation of grants aimed at providing educational and training support for these individuals.
Additionally, the legislation also calls for the ACL to develop a center to offer technical assistance to grant recipients and other entities. Those efforts would focus on caregiver workforce development and supporting family caregivers.
The assistance provided at the centers would include collaborating with states and other relevant stakeholders on the rollout of career development and advancement strategies for professional caregivers. It would also include putting together training and education curricula recommendations for professional and family caregivers, among other projects.
“The caregiving crisis in this country corners many Americans into upending their careers and living on poverty wages or performing unpaid caregiving for family members because they have no other options,” Casey said in a press statement. “This is not the way that a great nation treats its workers and families. This legislation would ensure that paid caregivers can receive family-sustaining wages and continue to provide essential care to older adults and people with disabilities.”
According to PHI statistics, 85% of home care workers are women, and 63% of all home care workers are people of color.
The average hourly wages for a direct care worker were just $14.27 in 2021.