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Rice Leads Bipartisan Effort to Address Shortage of Support Professionals

March 19, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., is one of the leaders in a bipartisan effort to address an oft-overlooked area of jobs development — the dramatic shortage of support professionals to work with the disabled.

Rice, along with Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., John Katko, R-N.Y., Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., is a sponsor of H.R. 6045, the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act.

The bill recognizes that direct support professionals provide critical support to individuals who experience disabilities, assisting with communication, providing on-the-job coaching, and helping with daily living needs.

However, it also notes that right now, there aren’t enough workers to meet demand, and home- and community-based service providers are struggling to recruit and retain more.

The bill aims to provide the U.S. Dept. of Labor and private sector employers with the data they need to better understand and respond to this pressing workforce challenge.

“The critical work of Direct Support Professionals has an immeasurable impact on the lives of those with disabilities and makes our society a better place,”  Rep. Rice said.

“By addressing the shortage of Direct Support Professionals, this bill will go a long way in ensuring more people with disabilities can lead productive and fulfilling lives. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me to address this urgent workforce issue,” she said.

By improving data collection, H.R. 6045 will:

  •  Provide states and the federal government with more accurate information about the workforce trends for Direct Support Professionals to help identify workforce shortage areas and report accurate turnover rates.
  • Help identify where to implement targeted workforce training programs for Direct Support Professionals so that trained workers can meet local workforce needs. 
  • Recognize the unique role that Direct Support Professionals play in supporting individuals with disabilities and raise awareness of critical workforce needs. 

The legislation is supported by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, Inc., the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), the Arc of the United States, the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.

“For years, ANCOR has advocated for better data on our direct support workforce because we fundamentally believe that robust data is a badly needed step toward solving the direct support workforce crisis,” said Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR. 

“That’s why we’re so grateful for the many champions of H.R. 6045, whose bipartisan leadership will propel us forward significantly in our efforts to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be supported by qualified professionals who enhance their quality of life,” Merrill said.

U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the Senate.

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