Governor Mills announces federal approval of bonus payments for direct support workers
Mills Administration’s plan provides about $ 126 million for hiring and retention bonuses for home and community workers.
Governor Janet Mills announced today that the federal government has approved Maine’s plan to allocate approximately $ 126 million of MaineCare funds available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for bonuses for direct support workers of new and existing home and community services (HCBS). and shared living providers. These payments represent a major component of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) plan to improve access to high-quality services for people in Maine of all ages living with disabilities and living conditions. behavioral health.
DHHS received approval for the plan today from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is currently reviewing previously submitted changes to the State of MaineCare plan that will authorize federal matching funds for the plan.
The premium payment component of the plan aims to address short-term healthcare worker shortages linked to COVID. It is also closely aligned with the health workforce priorities included in Governor Janet Mills’ Jobs and Stimulus Plan.
“Direct support workers, like all health care providers, have been the backbone of our response to COVID-19. They have been on the front lines for more than a year and a half providing vital care to the people of Maine, despite the risks to their own health. Their work is meaningful beyond words ”, Governor Mills said. “This federal funding will allow us to recruit and retain more direct support workers, help them build lifelong careers here in Maine, and strengthen our system of care and services for the elderly and people with disabilities and suffering from mental health problems. “
“This funding will support the services that seniors and people with disabilities and behavioral health issues need to stay healthy and achieve their goals.” said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “We look forward to putting the rewards in the hands of Maine’s dedicated direct support workers, who remain on the front lines of our response to the pandemic.”
“Every day, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities in need of home care services rely on a highly skilled and dedicated home care workforce.” said Brenda Gallant, Maine’s long-term care ombudsman. “These workers deserve to be recognized and we are very pleased that the Mills administration has dedicated this funding to attract and retain this essential workforce.”
“These bonuses are welcome and honor the hard work and commitment of direct caregivers who have stayed the course during these long months of pandemic”, said Laura Cordes, executive director of the Maine Association for Community Service Providers. “Direct social workers provide exceptional care to children and adults in Maine with developmental disabilities and autism. At a time when many agencies and provider programs are walking the fine line of collapse due to critical staff shortages, these bonuses can help stem the loss of direct care workers across the state. “
“This funding for recruitment and retention bonuses is a welcome relief, especially during this labor shortage,” said Laurie Belden, Executive Director of the Home Care and Hospice Alliance of Maine. “These incentives, along with other initiatives developed by the Mills Administration, are essential to ensuring that home care remains a viable choice for seniors and people with disabilities in Maine.”
“This effort on the part of DHHS has been a great example of working with the provider community to ensure rapid access to services,” said Malory Shaughnessy, executive director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services. “The fact that this enhanced HCBS funding can be applied to behavioral health services for the first time is also critical in recognizing the importance of the behavioral health workforce and helping Mainers with mental health disorders and addiction to stay in their home community. The Alliance applauds the Mills administration and its plan to allocate the bulk of the funding to retention and attraction bonuses for direct support workers and their supervisors. “
Eligible HCBS providers must register with the Ministry to receive payments. Registration will be done through an online portal from November 29 and will continue for 10 working days.
DHHS will distribute funds to qualified provider agencies in two phases, starting in January, based on their HCBS MaineCare income. Provider agencies will pay bonuses directly to workers, cohabitation service providers and supervisors. The individual bonus amounts will be determined by the providing agency in accordance with a bonus policy that the agency will adopt and share with its employees. DHHS developed this system in consultation with provider agencies to reduce administrative burden, give agencies more certainty about available funding, and allow agencies to create specific bonus policies that make sense to their employees. All provider agencies that receive funds for bonuses are required to make at least 80 percent of funds in direct payments to staff, not including agency management. The agencies will be subject to a federal and state audit.
The $ 126 million allocated for bonus payments is part of DHHS ‘larger plan to invest approximately $ 229 million in federal Medicaid matching funds for Maine’s HCBS System Improvement Plan, which was developed in consultation with stakeholders, including providers and families. The plan reflects the consensus that the most immediate challenge facing Maine’s HCBS system is attracting and retaining direct support workers. As part of the HCBS system improvement plan, the ministry is also creating a direct support worker council, developing career ladders, making worker certification more portable, and pursuing other longer-term initiatives.
Governor Mills in Maine’s Jobs and Stimulus Plan includes a list of initiatives to encourage people to seek health care jobs in Maine and to strengthen the state’s health workforce. This includes $ 4 million to provide scholarships and student loan relief to enable more people to become behavioral health specialists, long-term support workers and other health professionals. . An additional $ 8 million is supporting a program to help people working in health care learn skills and grow with their employer. The Jobs and Stimulus Plan also includes a recruiting effort of $ 1.5 million, of which $ 500,000 is specifically dedicated to promoting direct support worker jobs, such as aids for the elderly or disabled people.
The Mills administration has taken a number of steps to support HCBS suppliers during the pandemic. Group home providers received a significant increase in their MaineCare base rates on July 1 and will be included in the first wave of agencies to receive rate adjustments in January to support an average wage for direct support workers d ” at least 125% of the state minimum wage.
As forecast in the biennial budget, the Administration recently announced $ 146 million primarily for workforce recruitment and retention: $ 123 million for nursing homes, residential care facilities (private non-medical facilities (PNMI) Cs) and family care homes for adults and $ 23 million for hospitals. This is in addition to the allocation of $ 25 million in coronavirus relief funds to healthcare organizations to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This month, drug treatment facilities (PNMI Annex B providers) receive MaineCare rate increases for a variety of services. Child Care Establishments (PNMI D service providers) have also benefited from tariff increases, effective November 1, 2021 to help providers meet new requirements associated with the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
Additionally, earlier in the pandemic, Maine DHHS enacted contingency arrangements in MaineCare to give agencies more flexibility in staffing, which remains ongoing. The ministry also connected vendors with potential sources of staff, including the state’s ASPIRE program, vocational rehabilitation services, college job sites, and the Ministry of Labor’s Maine JobLink. These and other resources are available in a Recruitment and Retention Toolkit.