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Dingell says bill could help state-run programs desperate for direct care workers

Direct care worker Sarah Sutherlin helping client, April 14, 2021
Ryan Garza
Detroit Free Press and Michigan Radio
Direct care worker Sarah Sutherlin helping client, April 14, 2021

Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell has introduced a bill to help state-run home care programs, which are struggling to hire direct care workers.

Across the nation, and in Michigan, there are usually long wait lists for state programs that provide direct care workers. These are often low-paid but essential workers who help elderly people and those with disabilities remain in their homes.

“We know that the majority of individuals who require care would prefer to receive it in their own homes and communities," Dingell said in a statement. "No one should have to wait years to get the care they deserve, and no care worker should have to live below the poverty line to give this care.

"Caregiving is the foundation of our economy and allows for all other work to be possible," Dingell added. "This legislation will provide much-needed investment in our care workforce, making it easier for those who need care to get it, and supporting the caregivers doing this crucial work.”

Barry Cargill is head of the Michigan Home Care and Hospice Association.

"Probably the most important thing is available training dollars, to free up funds to be able to raise what we can pay for direct care workers," he said.

Dingell's bill would provide extra Medicaid funds for two years. States could use the funds for training, boosting wages, providing benefits like sick leave, and reimbursement for transportation to and from the homes of those being served. Funds could also be used for programs that assist family caregivers, such as respite care or adult day care.

Cargill said the bills would be of great help as Michigan continues its efforts to develop its own plan to deal with the direct care worker crisis.

He said the state Legislature has made permanent the pandemic-era hourly premium increase of .80 cents for Medicaid direct care workers.

In addition, he said, a state commission is in the process of developing recommendations for stakeholders to pursue to address the worker shortage.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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