Biden Calls For Major Boost To Disability Services
Alongside funding for bridges and roads, President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes a massive investment in home- and community-based services for people with disabilities.
The proposal unveiled last week known as the American Jobs Plan calls for $400 billion in spending to expand access to Medicaid home- and community-based services for those currently on waiting lists.
“These investments will help hundreds of thousands of Americans finally obtain the long-term services and support they need, while creating new jobs and offering caregiving workers a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union and collectively bargain,” the White House said.
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The push to enhance offerings for individuals with disabilities is part of a sweeping proposal to modernize America’s infrastructure and put more people to work. In addition to projects focused on improving transportation and repairing schools and federal facilities, Biden is arguing that the nation must also invest in the caregiving system in this country.
“It’s a once-in-a generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago,” Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh introducing the plan.
Spending would occur largely over eight years, Biden said, paid for through corporate tax increases.
The American Jobs Plan will work in tandem with another proposal called the American Families Plan, which is expected in the coming weeks, to boost the caregiving workforce and the people they serve, Biden indicated.
The White House pointed to research suggesting that increasing pay for direct care staff leads to better quality care, greater productivity, fewer health violations and helps prevent deaths.
The focus on caregivers and improving access to home- and community-based services makes good on promises Biden made during his campaign for the White House last year. And, the plan’s rollout comes just weeks after a group of federal lawmakers issued a draft proposal for a bill known as the HCBS Access Act that’s designed to eliminate waiting lists for home- and community-based services, strengthen the network of providers and bring other changes to the nation’s disability services system.
“With this $400 billion in the American Jobs Plan, we can help people receive the care, comfort and healing they deserve in their own homes, while building our nation’s long term care system back better than it ever was before. And then we can focus our efforts on the systemic reforms necessary for HCBS and long-term care under legislation like the HCBS Access Act,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., one of the lawmakers behind the draft proposal.
Beyond services for people with disabilities, Biden’s American Jobs Plan would also expand access to competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities and bar employers from paying people with disabilities what’s known as submininimum wage — pay that’s less than the federal minimum — the White House said.
The Arc, a disability nonprofit that has long advocated for better access to home- and community-based services, said it was “encouraged” by Biden’s plan to improve access to services and supports provided by Medicaid.
Peter Berns, the group’s CEO, said he was “pleased to see the value of people with disabilities, family caregivers and direct support professionals recognized and upheld in the administration’s bold American Jobs Plan.”
“The proposal is a welcome first step,” Berns said.