The COVID-19 pandemic has punctuated the crisis in care in this country, but for people with disabilities and their families, this crisis was decades in the making. Pre-pandemic there was a nationwide shortage of direct care workers, those who support people with disabilities in their homes and communities. For people with disabilities, those direct care workers make all the difference between a life in the community, and a life without opportunity.
But their wages on average are less than $12 an hour and there is more than 50 percent turnover annually, making it difficult to provide continuity in services and threatening the quality of care.
This important workforce, disproportionately women of color, does critical tasks to support people with disabilities to engage with their community, work and be healthy. Direct care workers do everything from helping with personal hygiene to supporting employment, and yet their value is not reflected in wages.
As a direct care worker for over 23 years in Lincoln, it is very clear to me that wages need to be increased for people who provide this very important work to our most vulnerable population. Most direct care workers have to work two full-time jobs to just meet the basic needs of their families. This is very emotionally and physically draining on staff and families and is one of the reasons there is a great deal of turnover in this workforce.
A raise is long overdue.
We need Sen. Deb Fischer, Sen. Ben Sasse, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Rep. Don Bacon, and Rep. Adrian Smith to support the Better Care Better Jobs Act that includes the $400 billion investment in the Medicaid HCBS system to create more direct care jobs to meet the growing need and increase wages for the current workforce. Without this investment, this critical workforce and people with disabilities lose.
Board Member, The Arc of Nebraska