Care for Our Communities: Investing in the Direct Care Workforce Hearing

Workforce | July 26, 2021 | by Andrea Price-Carter

The House Education and Labor Subcommittees on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a joint hearing, titled “Care for Our Communities: Investing in the Direct Care Workforce” on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The hearing was an opportunity to address the Direct Creation, Advancement and Retention of Employment (CARE) Opportunity Act (H.R. 2999), sponsored by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA).

The House Education and Labor Subcommittees on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a joint hearing, titled “Care for Our Communities: Investing in the Direct Care Workforce” on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The hearing was an opportunity to address the Direct Creation, Advancement and Retention of Employment (CARE) Opportunity Act (H.R. 2999), sponsored by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA).

 

The Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee Chairwoman Frederica Wilson said in her opening statement, “In addition to low pay and difficult working conditions, the direct care sector lacks the training and career pathways that workers need to join – and remain – in this profession.” Chairwoman Wilson and the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee Chair Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), used the hearing as an opportunity to elevate how the Direct CARE Opportunity Act - endorsed by LeadingAge - would invest more than $1 billion in training and recruitment opportunities for our nation’s direct care workers.

Democrat subcommittee members emphasized how the legislation aligns with a key piece of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which calls for a significant $400 billion investment to solidify the infrastructure of our care economy by creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers. The plan is also calling on Congress to invest $100 billion in proven workforce development programs.

Republican subcommittee members, primarily reiterated their support for the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as a vehicle to help direct care workers. They view WIOA as an important source of funding for state and local workforce development systems that are tasked with addressing the community needs. They also strongly advocated for apprenticeship-style programs that allowed for on-the-job learning and classroom-based instructions to sustain a workforce pipeline to recruit the health care workforce.

Hearing witness Robert Espinoza, Vice President of Policy, PHI, a leading expert on the direct care workforce, described in his testimony the key characteristics and primary challenges of direct care workers. He elaborated on how the Direct CARE Opportunity Act would help significantly, by funding a coordinated array of workforce interventions in direct care, while building much-needed evidence based on these critical approaches.

 

Jessica Fay’s testimony, State Representative Maine House of Representatives, and the House Chair of Maine’s 2019 Commission to Study Long-Term Care Workforce Issues, provided meaningful insight into raising public awareness about the need and value of caregiving jobs. She also shared how professionalizing the workforce by offering ongoing paid professional development, supportive supervision and opportunities for advancement will enhance opportunities to attract and retain direct care workers. Hearing witness, Zulma Torres, Home Health Aide, Cooperative Home Care Associates, Waterbury, CT, provided testimony that allowed the subcommittee to know first-hand her personal experiences as a home health aide and called on Congress to help.
 

You can view the hearing here.