Why the Better Care Better Jobs Act is crucial to the disability community

The Better Care Better Jobs Act (S. 2210) was introduced in Congress on June 25, 2021. The bill is currently supported by 79 representatives from 27 states and the District of Columbia. If passed, key components of this bill will have a profound impact on the disability community.

Upon introduction, Senate Majority Leader Schumer said, “The Better Care Better Jobs Act would make a massive investment in home and community-based services to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities have the right to live in their homes while getting the care they need. Furthermore, it will finally treat the home care workforce like the essential workers they are and ensure they are paid fair wages. The COVID-19 pandemic shown a painful magnifying glass on how our country is currently falling well short of those goals. We must do better. I will work tirelessly with President Biden and my colleagues in Congress to get this proposal signed into law.”

If the Better Care Better Jobs Act is passed, it will invest nearly $500 billion into Medicaid home- and community-based services (HCBS) over 10 years. This unparalleled increase in funding will impact not only Americans with disabilities who utilize the HCBS system to stay independent in the community, but also the direct care workforce that individuals with disabilities rely on every day.

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • A 10% increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). This is the amount of funds the federal government contributes to match each state’s spending on Medicaid services. These federal dollars will help states continue to respond to the financial strains of COVID-19, such as vaccination delivery, testing, contract tracing, etc. The funds also help ensure that Medicaid services remain available to those in the community who need it, including 5 million front-line and essential workers.
  • Direct investments in training, recruitment and retention of the direct support professional (DSP) workforce. The bill specifically identifies payment rates; mentions that states should address insufficient payments rates for the delivery of HCBS; and clarifies that payment rates for HCBS should be updated at least every two years through a transparent process. In addition, payment rates should be proportionately passed through to direct care workers and not used to increase company profit margins.
  • Expanded access to services for individuals on waiting lists. In Kansas, the waiting list for the I/DD waiver has increased to more than 4,000 individuals and families.
  • Permanent extension of Money Follows the Person (MFP). This program allows residents to receive HBCS in the community and provides enhanced services that allow for payment of utility deposits and reasonable moving expenses to transition an individual from an institutional setting back into the community.

The legislation might not only reshape the delivery of and access to HCBS in our communities by providing an infusion of federal dollars to combat the financial impact of COVID-19, but also provide access to individuals with a disability on a waiting list who are already eligible to receive services. In addition, there are currently about 4.5 million direct care workers in the United States today — the majority of whom are women of color — working for poverty wages with often zero benefits.

As the Better Care Better Jobs Act moves through congressional committees, Arcare will continue advocating for its swift passage, encouraging direct support among our state representatives. If you are interested in receiving more information on how you can help in these efforts, please sign up for our email list or follow us on social media.