Updated: Apr 9
In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden called on Congress to invest in home and community-based services for people with disabilities. The proposed plan, which he introduced nearly two years ago, would spend $400 billion on Medicaid home and community-based services, with the goal of expanding access to those currently on waiting lists and strengthening the workforce of direct support professionals. While the U.S. House of Representatives approved a scaled-down version of the plan with $150 billion for the program in late 2021, the funding never made it to a vote in the Senate. However, last month, a group of federal lawmakers introduced the "Better Care Better Jobs Act," which seeks to provide states with a permanent 10 percentage point increase in federal Medicaid matching funds for home and community-based services. The push to invest in home and community-based services comes as disability service providers continue to struggle to attract and retain direct support professionals, a challenge exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey last fall of providers nationwide found that the vast majority are turning away new referrals and have discontinued programs and services. David Goldfarb, director of policy at The Arc, believes that Biden "sends the right message to Congress" by using the State of the Union to talk about the need to expand home and community-based services. He emphasized that many people are still on waitlists for services, and there are not enough workers to support individuals due to the low pay for these jobs. Biden's plan also touches on other important issues for people with disabilities and their families, such as paid family leave, restoring the full child tax credit, and access to affordable child care. The call for investment in home and community-based services highlights the need for a more equitable society for all, where people with disabilities are not left behind. While it remains to be seen whether Congress will act on the proposal, Biden's continued advocacy for this issue is a positive step forward.