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Efforts Underway to address Direct Care Worker Shortage
Providers of direct care services, including self-directed ones, are mobilizing to address a concerning, and challenging shortage of Idaho workers.
Direct care workers assist the elderly or people with disabilities who qualify for Medicaid and Social Security, who are able to, and choose to, live independently in their own homes.
Over the past year, there were 4,473 available job postings in Idaho for home health care and personal assistant aides, according to data from Burning Glass. This puts Idaho as the fourth highest state for such job postings. Since 2018 there has been a 135% jump in postings.
“It’s a growing industry,” said Esther Eke, regional economist for Idaho Department of Labor. “Those occupations are in high demand, and will be going forward. We’ve had a jump, despite the pandemic, when general demand went down.”
Why is there a shortage? These positions in Idaho also tend to be lower paying compared to other states. They typically make between $3-$6 less an hjour.
Mark Leeper, Executive Director for Disability Action Center NW, said while he has seen a shortage of direct care workers for years, the pandemic essentially grew the problem.
Service providers in communities near the border especially feel the squeeze. It’s easy to cross the border and make more money.
Providers of personal assistants are reimbursed an hourly rate from Medicaid of about $10 an hour for the worker plus admin costs such as scheduling and billing. It’s difficult to be competitive with that wage Plus, when the pandemic hit, other industries were able to increase wages and provide hazard pay. At this pay rate it’s difficult to compete with entry level jobs in fast food, etc.
These providers have banded together to reach the Idaho Legislators and stress the importance of a higher Medicaid reimbursement rate as part of the state budget. A percentage of that funding is matched federally. Also to tie training and certifications to wage increases, like a career ladder, to help with worker retention. You can help by contacting your representative and asking for support.