United Cerebral Palsy Urges Congress to Support Professional Caregivers

Legislation proposed by Reps. Terry (R-NE) and Capps (D-CA) will promote fair
compensation for the nation’s direct support professionals

Washington, DC, March 10, 2005 – At a press conference with Congressman Lee
Terry (R-NE) and Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) today, United Cerebral Palsy
reaffirmed its unwavering support for the Direct Support Professional Fairness
and Security Act and urged Members of Congress to do the same.

“Direct support professionals are underpaid and under-appreciated,” said Stephen
Bennett, President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy. “Representatives Terry
and Capps recognize that by raising these workers’ personal stability we will
improve the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.”

There are more than 2 million aides, personal assistance workers, and direct
support professionals who make it possible for over 4 million Americans with
disabilities to live full and independent lives.

The Direct Support Professional Fairness and Security Act addresses the alarming
turnover rate – between 40% and 77% – of direct support professionals working
through the Medicaid program. Higher wages will help stabilize turnover rates
while giving stability to families who rely on direct support professionals.

A 2003 national report found that direct support professionals earn an average
of only $8.68 per hour, a wage clearly unequal to their professional responsibilities.
Direct support professional wages, which are almost entirely publicly financed
through Medicaid, are increasing at well below comparable jobs and even the
minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor, the wages of personal and
home care aides increased only $0.82 from 1992-2000 versus $2.11 for fast food
workers.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the average income
for all nursing home direct support staff was just $13,287; so low that the
American Journal of Public Health reported that more than 1.3 million health
care workers provide a standard of care that they and their families cannot
expect to receive.

As a result, the long-term services industry, plagued with employment shortages
and high turnover, is in turmoil. The lack of a reliable labor pool has placed
the lives of millions of Americans who rely on long-term services and supports
at risk.

“A further decrease in the stability of services could lead to the needless
institutionalization and risk the health and safety of people with disabilities,” said
Marty Ford, Director of Legal Advocacy for the Disability Policy Collaboration. “We
urge Members of Congress to stand with Congressman Terry and Congresswoman Capps
to support the Direct Support Professional Fairness and Security Act.”

Citing their work on behalf of the nation’s direct support professionals and
the citizens with disabilities they serve, United Cerebral Palsy honored both
Representatives Terry and Capps with a UCP Leadership Award on March 1.

About United Cerebral Palsy

United Cerebral Palsy is one of the nation’s leading organizations serving
and advocating for the more than 54 million Americans with disabilities. Most
UCP consumers are people with disabilities other than cerebral palsy. Through
its nationwide network, United Cerebral Palsy offers services to individuals,
families and communities such as job training and placement, physical therapy,
individual and family support, early intervention, social and recreation programs,
community living, state and local referrals, and instruction on how to use technology
to perform everyday tasks. For more information, call (800) 872-5827.

Contact: Jim Baker
(202) 973-7114