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‘We have a crisis of caregiving in this country’: Legislation would provide support

Rebecca Barnabi
senior elderly eating alone lunch
(© kasto – stock.adobe.com)

Despite greater need for caregiving than ever before in the United States, care workers across the nation are overworked and underpaid, resulting in a severe workforce shortage.

The Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act would provide the support workers need to make caregiving a lifelong career. U.S. Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin introduced the legislation yesterday to tackle the caregiving crisis by reprioritizing long-term caregivers and supporting their work based on the value they bring to families.

“We cannot claim to be the greatest country in the world if we do not have the greatest caregiving in the world,” Casey said.

Millions of families with aging loved ones and individuals with disabilities require skilled care to live, but many caregivers today work long hours for low pay, resulting in some workers being forced to leave their field for higher paying jobs. The instability has resulted in widespread worker shortages for anyone in need of essential care. The Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act would ensure that caregiving can be a sustainable, lifelong career by providing substantial new funding to support workers in every part of the long-term care industry, from nursing homes to home-care to assisted living facilities. By improving caregiver compensation, benefits and support systems, the bill would ensure the nation has a strong, qualified pipeline of workers to provide desperately needed care for older adults and individuals with disabilities.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

“We have a crisis of caregiving in this country, and it’s a crisis that stems largely from a lack of support for and investment in our caregiving workforce,” Casey said. “We need to invest in these workers not just to ensure that caregiving can be a sustainable, lifelong career, but to improve the quality and availability of care for all who need it.”

According to Kaine, every American deserves access to quality, affordable care throughout their lifetimes. 

“But too often, direct care workers in long-term care settings are overworked and underpaid, resulting in significant workforce shortages – especially in our rural communities. I’m proud to co-lead this legislation to help address the root causes of shortages in our care system, including by improving compensation and by providing pathways to enter the field. This will lead to healthier communities, and improved quality of life for older adults, people with disabilities, and their caregivers,” Kaine said.

Baldwin was her grandmother’s primary caregiver.

“Right now, we’re facing a desperate shortage in our long-term care workforce and sadly, it’s no surprise: many caregivers are forced to be on the clock for long hours, get low pay, and work in tough conditions. We owe it to caregivers who devote their lives to helping others to invest in the caregiving workforce, giving these compassionate workers the respect they deserve, attracting fresh talent, and ensuring our loved ones get high-quality care,” Baldwin said.


The foundation of the American economy is caregiving, Dingell said, because it makes other work possible.

“No care worker should have to live below the poverty line to do this work that millions of Americans depend on. As many know, this is deeply personal for me – I was lucky to have my husband, John, receive care at home, but many others do not have the same opportunity. This legislation will make much needed investments in our care infrastructure and workforce, including family caregivers, to ensure they have the support they need, are paid a living wage, and are able to continue doing their critical jobs,” Dingell said.

Caregiving is in crisis in America. Caregivers are widely underpaid, earning a median wage of $15.43 an hour and often living in poverty. The result is caregivers are in short supply. A recent survey revealed 92 percent of nursing home respondents and nearly 70 percent of assisted living facilities reported significant or severe workforce shortages. Another recent survey of home and community-based services (HCBS) providers showed all 50 states experiencing home care worker shortages, and 43 states reported that some HCBS providers have closed due to worker shortages.

The Long Term Care Workforce Support Act will address this crisis by stabilizing, growing, and supporting the direct care professional workforce. Specifically, the Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act will: 

  • Increase the number of direct care professionals, including in rural communities;
  • Provide pathways to enter and be supported in the workforce for women, people of color, and people with disabilities;
  • Improve compensation for direct care professionals to reduce vacancies and turnover;
  • Ensure that direct care professionals are treated with respect, provided with a safe working environment, protected from exploitation, and provided fair compensation;
  • Improve access and quality of long-term care for families;
  • Document the need for long-term care, identify effective recruitment and training strategies, and promote practices that help retain direct care professionals.
  • Strengthen the direct care professional workforce in order to support the 53,000,000 unpaid family caregivers who are providing complex services to their loved ones in the home and across long-term care settings.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.