Direct Care Legislation Poised to Improve Quality of Care for Millions of Americans

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Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act would improve wages and working conditions for direct care workers.

Without basic protections for this workforce, the quality of care for the elderly and people living with disabilities is compromised.

The Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act – a bill that would help create a more stable, valued direct care workforce, was announced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) at a press conference yesterday. This legislation takes major steps towards ensuring the health, autonomy and well-being of more than 13 million Americans with long-term care needs today and an estimated 27 million by 2050.

The Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include basic labor protections for home care workers, who report facing poor working conditions on the job every day. Currently, FLSA covers domestic service workers and most direct care workers in institutional settings such as nursing homes. However, the law continues to exclude home care workers from basic minimum wage and overtime protections.

“Without basic protections for this workforce, the quality of care for the elderly and people living with disabilities is compromised,” said Leonila Vega, Executive Director of the Direct Care Alliance.

In addition to extending wage and overtime protections for home care workers, the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act would:

  • Establish data collection and reporting requirements to monitor important workforce indicators such as size, compensation levels, turnover rates and vacancies.
  • Improve the recruitment and retention of direct care workers by providing grants to states to expand and support efforts aimed at recruiting, training and retaining an adequate supply of direct care workers.

“Direct care jobs are projected to be among the fastest growing occupations over the next decade – but that will only happen if they are good, quality jobs with real benefits,” said Tracy Dudzinski, vice-chair of the Direct Care Alliance board of directors and president of the board of directors of Cooperative Care, a worker-owned home care agency in Wisconsin. “This legislation is what we need to make that happen.”

To learn more about the Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act, visit http://www.directcarealliance.org.

The Direct Care Alliance is the national advocacy voice of direct care workers in long-term care. We empower workers to speak out for better wages, benefits, respect, and working conditions, so more people can commit to direct care as a career. We also convene powerful allies nationwide to build consensus for change.

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Aaron Pickering
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