Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Sean Maloney (D-NY), John Katko (R-NY), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act (S.3369/H.R.6045). This bill directs the Office of Management and Budget to revise the Standard Occupational Classification system to create a separate code for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). A separate code will allow states and the federal government to collect more accurate data to address turnover and shortages. The Arc Supports this legislation.
On January 21, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Ensuring Access to Direct Support Professionals Act (S.3220). This bill would allow 1915(c) waiver recipients to bring their direct support professionals (DSPs) with them to the hospital. Medicaid does not currently cover DSPs when a 1915(c) waiver recipient is admitted to the hospital, leading patients to rely on hospital staff not trained on their individual needs. The Arc supports this legislation.
On January 21, PHI released the first of a year-long series of reports on the direct care workforce. This report, titled “It’s Time to Care: A Detailed Profile of America’s Direct Care Workforce,” covers the basic terminology in the field of direct care, explores the evolving nature of direct care and growing need for it, and offers policy solutions to address the workforce shortage. The report recommends increasing compensation and creating a workforce pipeline.
On November 1, The Arc, as part of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, along with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, hosted a Congressional briefing titled “The Hidden Crisis of Care in the U.S. – Addressing the Homecare Workforce Shortage.” Honorary co-hosts were the Task Force on Aging and Families and the Office of Representative Pramila Jayapal. The briefing covered the shortages in the direct care workforce and the need for investment at the federal level to address it. Read testimony from the briefing from Nicole Jorwic, The Arc’s Senior Director for Public Policy, here.
On September 19, Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Susie Lee (D-NV) introduced the Direct Creation, Advancement, and Retention of Employment (CARE) Opportunity Act (S.2521/H.R.4397). This bill provides grants to 15 entities to develop and implement strategies relating to recruitment, retention, and career advancement for direct care workers. The Arc strongly supports this bill.
The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) recently released a report titled America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis: Effects on People with Intellectual Disabilities, Families, Communities and the U.S. Economy. The report notes that direct support professionals (DSPs) provide services that allow people with intellectual disability to live in their communities and enable family members to work. Additionally, the report indicates that the average hourly DSP wage is $10.72, most DSPs work two or three jobs, and the average annual turnover rate is 45%. For more information, see The Arc’s statement on the report. A plain-language version of the report can be found here.
The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation is seeking applicants for its Public Policy Fellowship. Applicants should be exemplary professionals, people with disabilities, or family members of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The fellowship prepares mid-career, or more seasoned leaders, to assume leadership in the disability public policy arena at the state or national level. Fellows spend one year in Washington, D.C. in the office of a Member of Congress, Congressional Committee, or federal agency. Learn more and apply for the fellowship here. Applications are due October 31, 2015.
Last week, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments related to Home Care Association of America v. Weil which challenges the Home Care Final Rule issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) and intended to be implemented on January 1, 2015. The rule was put on hold due to a pair of rulings from the US District Court vacating the challenged provisions. The suit challenges DOL’s authority to 1) revise the definition of companionship services and 2) discontinues the exemption of overtime compensation by third party employers of home care workers who provide companionship services from overtime compensation. The Court of Appeals is expected to issue a decision this summer. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/homecare/.
As the January 1, 2015 deadline approaches for implementation of the final rule on “Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service” (also referred to as the home care or companionship rule), the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division released additional resources related to shared living programs. For additional information on the Rule, visit the DOL’s dedicated web site for fact sheets, FAQs, and contact information as well as a series of webinars.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Harris v. Quinn on January 21, 2014. The case concerns whether a state can consider direct care workers, who are reimbursed through Medicaid, state employees and compel them to pay union fees exclusively to one private organization in exchange for negotiating better reimbursement under Medicaid. The Supreme Court will consider whether the constitutional rights of those workers are violated by Illinois laws that require them to pay dues to unions designated by the State to serve as their exclusive representative. In 2003 Illinois recognized personal assistants (PAs) who are reimbursed through a Medicaid rehabilitation waiver as state employees, designated SEIU as the exclusive bargaining agent, and required all PAs to pay mandatory union fees. In 2009, Illinois recognized direct care workers who provide services for individuals with disabilities under a home based support services Medicaid waiver as public employees. However, those workers voted against unionization.
The plaintiffs in the case, a group of eight direct care workers who do not want the union to represent them and do not believe they should have to pay partial union fees, argue that they are not public employees and that their First Amendment rights are being violated by being required to support a union to speak on their behalf. (The named plaintiff in the case, Pam Harris, provides in-home personal care services to her son who has a developmental disability.) Plaintiffs lost in the federal district court and in the U.S. Court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The appeals found the Illinois PAs to be public employees whom the state could compel to pay union fees to SEIU as their exclusive bargaining agent. (The court said that it would not decide the issue for direct care workers reimbursed through the home based support services Medicaid waiver because those workers had not agreed to union representation and were not being compelled to pay union fees.) Both the U.S. Government and the State of Illinois urged the court not to hear the case. The case has piqued the interest of labor unions and right to work advocates and could have far reaching consequences for public unions across the county. The case is also of interest to disability advocates.