LeadingAge is calling on Congress to address immigration reform in a legislative package by the end of the year to help stabilize the aging services workforce.
In a letter to congressional leaders this week, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said the long-term care workforce is in a crisis due to a shortage of direct care workers that must be addressed immediately.
“ … there are balanced immigration reform policies that could be enacted this year that can help to bring immediate relief to older adults and the aging services workforce,” Sloan wrote.
She listed three bills that LeadingAge wants included in the year-end package:
- The Citizens for Essential Workers Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship and permanent residency status for aging services workers deemed essential during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which would take unused employment-based visas and make them available to 40,000 foreign physicians and nurses.
- The Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act and the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, which creates a new visa program, allowing employers to hire non-agricultural essential workers year-round as temporary direct care employees.
Immigration reform is gaining traction in Congress. A bipartisan bill that paves the way for green card access for legal immigrants is on track to reach the House floor next week.
LeadingAge has been calling for immigration reform for the past three years, laying out its IMAGINE strategy in 2019. That plan included a so-called H2Age visa that would allow migrants to work temporarily as guest workers in direct care and gain a path to citizenship.
Home Care Association of America President Vicki Hoak told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse it also backs LeadingAge’s call for a special visa category designed for direct care workers.
“With the growing number of Americans in need of care and the ongoing aging services workforce crisis, the Home Care Association of America has been diligently working to encourage balanced immigration reform solutions that will benefit our nation’s seniors and their families,” Hoak said in an email.
Immigrants have become the backbone of the direct care industry. PHI National, which tracks the long-term care industry, estimates that roughly 30% of the nation’s 2.3 million direct care workers are immigrants. The industry is expected to need at least 7 million new workers by the end of the decade.