Federal lawmakers are looking to address the nation’s shortage of in-home caregivers assisting people with developmental disabilities.

Legislation introduced this month is designed to help make the field of direct care work more attractive and lead to less turnover.

Those behind the bill known as the Direct CARE Opportunity Act, or H.R. 4397, point to estimates from the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics suggesting that a million more direct care workers are needed by 2024 to join a field that has long been plagued by low wages and the demanding nature of the work.

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“Direct care workers provide invaluable support to seniors and people experiencing disabilities — but … across the country, there are not enough people to fill these critical roles,” said U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who introduced the bill along with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “This bill not only helps to close this workforce gap, but will also directly benefit the direct care workers by investing in training as well as career advancement.”

The measure would provide funding to 15 entities to develop plans to recruit, retain and offer advancement opportunities to caregivers. It also pushes for the use of strategies to make direct care work more desirable through training and mentoring.

A version of the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Susie Lee, D-Nev.

According to the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR — a trade group representing disability service providers — the industry faces a 45 percent annual turnover rate for direct support professionals.

“Despite the high demand for this workforce and the critical role it plays, constraints within the Medicaid system which funds disability supports have kept wages too low to retain staff, given the responsibilities of the work,” wrote Sarah Meek, ANCOR’s director of legislative affairs, in a letter to lawmakers. “The Direct CARE Opportunity Act’s grants for pipeline programs and investments in training are important first steps to addressing this crippling workforce crisis.”

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