Congress Approves COVID-19 Stimulus Package

Last week, both houses of Congress approved and President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion bill to address the economic and other impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The final bill addresses some priorities of the disability community by allowing non-profit organizations that serve people with I/DD to receive small business loan assistance, allowing direct support professionals (DSPs) to accompany people they support in hospitals, extending the Money Follows the Person program, and providing additional funds for education (which can be used for special education) and housing. However, the bill missed the mark by failing to include more funding for home and community based services, address the shortage of medical equipment or DSPs, or fund paid time off for family caregivers of people with disabilities. Furthermore, while people receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will be eligible for recovery rebates without risk of losing their benefits, the bill requires them to files taxes, regardless of income level. Learn more about recovery rebates here. Read The Arc’s statement.

Direct Support Professionals: Bipartisan Legislation Creating Separate Code for DPSs Introduced in the House and Senate

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.

Tell Congress to Recognize the Role of Direct Support Professionals!

Direct Support Professionals: Senators Introduce Legislation to Allow DSPs in Hospitals

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.

PHI Releases First in Year-Long Series of Reports on Direct Care Workforce

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.

Direct Support Professionals: Advocates Holds Congressional Briefing on DSP Workforce Crisis

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.

Direct Support Professionals: Direct CARE Opportunity Act Introduced

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.

Direct Support Professionals – PCPID Releases Report on DSP Workforce Crisis

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.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Fellowship Program Accepting Applications

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.

Fair Labor Standards Act (Homecare Rule)

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/.

Fair Labor Standards Act Implementation

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.