Young serious overworked, male mature health care worker sitting looking down very sad

Senior services nonprofit LeadingAge is giving the Senate’s appropriations bill high marks for providing support to seniors in underserved communities. However, the legislation could do a lot more to help alleviate the caregiver crisis, says LeadingAge, which represents home care and other long-term care organizations.

“While we are pleased to see $3.2 billion allocated for nursing workforce development programs — an increase of $38 million — the planned $47.2 million for the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program is comparatively far too low to ensure there the country has the skilled aging services workforce and well-supported family caregivers needed to meet the complex needs of older adults,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement Thursday. 

The Senate released a draft last week of its $1.4 trillion 2023 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies. 

LeadingAge, which represents 5,000 senior service nonprofits, is calling on Congress to support priorities in its Workforce Campaign. The priorities include bolstering professional caregiver wages by $1.6 billion, supporting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services study of on-site nursing staff coverage with $50 million, increasing the pipeline of workers through training programs for high school students, reauthorizing and expanding training grants to help low-income workers train for high-paying direct care jobs, and establishing an Interagency Aging Services Workforce Taskforce.

The bill includes $3 million for the Center for Primary Care Research to provide better primary care in communities and a provision to provide grief and bereavement counseling in community-based settings, such as hospice. LeadingAge was a proponent of the latter. 

LeadingAge has been at the forefront of advocacy for more home- and community-based services, as well as additional funding for caregiver recruitment and training. Last year, it released a Blueprint for a Better Aging Infrastructure, which urged the Biden administration and Congress to prioritize the direct caregiver workforce. The direct care workforce needs to fill an estimated 7 million jobs by the end of the decade.