Wolf Administration, Homecare Advocates Highlight Investments In Direct Care Workforce

Meg SneadDepartment of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead (Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

HARRISBURG, PA — On Thursday, Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead joined representatives from United Home Care Workers Pennsylvania, Voices for Independence, and a direct care recipient living and working in Northwest Pennsylvania to highlight the impact of investments in Pennsylvania’s direct care workforce made possible by the $1.2 billion investment by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“Across Pennsylvania, senior citizens and adults with physical disabilities rely on direct care workers as a daily lifeline for services, supports, and daily assistance they need to live safely in their homes, among or near their families,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “Investments from the American Rescue Plan Act have provided the Wolf Administration with the unprecedented opportunity to investment in our home and community-based services system and our direct care workforce and help stabilize this critical infrastructure that gives so much to the individuals and families they serve.”

Through the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL), DHS oversees long-term services and supports covered through Medicaid, which serves more than 400,000 individuals. OLTL helps older Pennsylvanians and people with physical disabilities have the support or resources they need to live safely while receiving assistance with daily care and living by direct care workers. There are more than 220,000 direct care workers across Pennsylvania, and the median hourly wage for direct care workers has stagnated between $11 and $12 an hour and has not grown significantly despite Pennsylvania’s growing aging population and the need for a qualified, experienced caring workforce.

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Said Leanne Barry, a Meadville caregiver and member of the United Home Care Workers of PA: “The low wages paid to caregivers have forced us to make difficult choices for so long: Do I pay my bills, buy groceries, or put gas in my car? I am grateful that through my union’s partnership with the Department of Human Services that we were able to reduce this burden on caregivers by winning our largest-ever rate increase of 8%. Although there is more work to do to win the fair wages and benefits caregivers deserve, I’m excited to take such an important step in the right direction with this rate increase.”

ARPA funding will enable OLTL to invest in direct care workers by providing increased rates to home care agencies so they can increase the wages for those providing personal assistance services. This amounts to an 8 percent rate increase for personal care services – an investment that can give dedicated direct care workforce a raise for this essential work. Governor Wolf’s proposed 2022-2023 Budget sustains this investment.

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Additionally, to strengthen the workforce, active providers of personal assistance, community integration, and residential habilitation are eligible for a portion of $46.5 million, which is earmarked to help in recruiting and retaining workers.

As part of a longer-term strategy, OLTL also plans to use funding to enhance home and community-based services that will allow providers to address social determinants of health, purchase remote support technology and technology for electronic health records, develop and provide training to staff, and more.

“Pennsylvania is an aging state, and our need for a robust, skilled, and dedicated direct care workforce is more important than ever. We must recognize the value of our direct care workforce,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “Each of you play an essential role in our workforce, economy, and health care systems. Thank you for all you do, and we will continue to advocate and fight for you so this workforce and infrastructure will be there for us when we need your care.”

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DHS received conditional approval of its spending plan on December 1 from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. Pennsylvania’s plan focuses on increasing access to home and community-based services, staff recruitment and retention, workforce development, support for family caregivers, and more. More information about Pennsylvania’s home and community-based services spending plan is available on DHS’s website.

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