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PRESS RELEASE: Massachusetts Families to Face “Care Gap” as Demand Rises for Direct-Care Workers

November 10, 2011

Joint Committee Hearing to be Held on Bill to Establish a Task Force to Assess State’s Long-Term Care Preparedness

Boston, MA — Massachusetts lawmakers will conduct a hearing on a bill to establish a task force to ensure that there is an adequate direct-care workforce – nursing aides, home care aides, and personal care attendants – and infrastructure to meet the rising demand for long-term services and supports in the Commonwealth.

The hearing on Senate bill (S45), “An Act to Establish a Task Force Relative to the Commonwealth’s Direct-Care Workforce,” introduced by Senator Pat Jehlen, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, will be held by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities at the Massachusetts State House on November 15 at 10:30 AM in room B2.

Massachusetts’ nearly 104,000 direct-care workers comprise the largest occupational group in the state – even larger than retail salespersons and all teachers from pre-school through grade 12.

With nearly one in five Massachusetts residents projected to be age 65+ by 2020, and another million more residents anticipated to be living with disabilities, the demand for this workforce is expected to grow by at least 21 percent by 2018. Other job sectors in the state are expected to grow by only 3 percent.

Yet the number of women age 25-54, those who typically care for elders and people with disabilities, is projected to decline by 85,000 by 2030. This leaves Massachusetts with not only a shrinking labor pool for high-demand caregiving jobs, but with fewer women available to care for aging family members.

“Families depend on these workers to care for their loved ones – often so that they can work themselves,” said Senator Jehlen. “If Massachusetts is going to meet the rapidly-growing demand for this workforce, we need to ensure that these jobs are good jobs with decent wages, health coverage, better training, and opportunities for career advancement.”

The direct-care task force – comprised of representatives from state agencies that employ or contract for direct-care services – would focus on gathering accurate data on the current workforce, such as the number of workers, turnover and vacancy rates, and wages and benefits, and also assess the current training and credentialing infrastructure. It would develop workforce policies that ensure an adequate supply of frontline caregivers, especially in home and community-based settings.

Recently, an AARP survey ranked Massachusetts 40th among the states and District of Columbia in providing home and community-based options to its low-income residents.

“If direct-care jobs continue to be so poorly compensated—and to lack training and advancement opportunities—few workers will want to take these positions and employers will continue to pay the costly price of a revolving door,” said PHI Massachusetts Policy Director Amy Robins. “To improve the quality of care for Massachusetts elders and people with disabilities we need to improve the quality of jobs for direct-care workers. This bill is a significant step forward.”

In Massachusetts in 2010, the median hourly wages for home care aides and personal care attendants was $12.23 and $12.48, respectively, and $13.53 for nursing aides. The median hourly wage for all occupations in the state was $20.13.

From 2007-2009, as many as 40 percent of direct-care workers in the Commonwealth relied on means-tested public assistance.

The direct-care workforce task force would be charged with reporting their findings to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2012.

For more information on the direct-care workforce in Massachusetts, including downloadable charts and graphs, and the “Act to Establish a Task Force Relative to the Commonwealth’s Direct-Care Workforce,” visit PHI Massachusetts on the PHI PolicyWorks website.

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PHI (www.PHInational.org) is a national organization that works to improve the lives of people who need home or residential care — and of the direct-care workers who provide that care. PHI's work is grounded in the philosophy that quality jobs for direct-care workers will lead to quality care for long-term care consumers.



Deane Beebe, PHI Media Relations Director
646-285-1039
DBeebe@phinational.org


Amy Robins, PHI Massachusetts Policy Director
857-939-9875
ARobins@phinational.org

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