AUCD Applauds Representatives Terry and Capps for Introducing Legislation to Address Direct Workforce Shortage

March 10, 2005

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy

SILVER SPRING, MD (March 10, 2005) - The Association of University Centers on Disabilities applauds Representatives Lee Terry (R-NE) and Lois Capps (D-CA) for introducing the bipartisan Direct Support Professional Fairness and Security Act of 2005. This bill would take important steps to ensure that direct support professionals are paid wages and benefits that enable them to stay in their jobs and provide the critical services that people with disabilities rely upon. The bill would address the crises in those programs funded by the federal/state Medicaid program.

For millions of people with disabilities of all ages, direct support professionals are the key to living successfully in their home communities. Direct support professionals are often personal care assistants or home care aides who assist people with severe disabilities with medications, preparing and eating meals, dressing, mobility, and handling daily affairs. Yet, there is a crisis in the availability of direct support professionals to provide supports. In 2000, the median hourly wage of personal and home care aides and home health aides was $7.50 and $8.23, respectively, for very demanding, often difficult work. Many workers find that they can earn higher hourly wages, and receive better benefits, in far less demanding jobs in the fast food and retail industries. As a result, people with disabilities experience continuous turnover of direct support workers who assist them with their personal daily needs or they find themselves unable to get workers at all. Unable to find adequate assistance, people find their health, safety, and, sometimes, their lives in jeopardy.

The direct support worker bill would amend the Medicaid program (Title XIX of the Social Security Act) to provide funds to States to enable them to increase the wages paid to targeted direct support professionals in providing services to individuals with disabilities. The program is designed as an option to states and would provide enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for five years to states to increase wages. It is designed to increase wages and eliminate the gap between wages paid to private employees and wages paid to public employees in the state.

Authorized under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, AUCD's University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, have been instrumental in providing systems change through research, education and training, advocacy, and the provision of quality services to and supports for people with disabilities in the community.