(A scheduling note: This newsletter will be off on Monday, Jan. 17 for the MLK Day holiday. We’re back to business as usual on Tuesday.)
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
A new poll drives home the challenges faced by Pennsylvania’s disability service providers as they contend with staffing shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges.
Nearly 50 percent of the 100 disability and autism providers who responded to the survey commissioned by the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association said they’d reduced services because of staffing shortages.
In a statement, the trade group said the results of the poll, conducted last September, underline the need for increased state support for an industry that works with some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“The data collected in the survey builds on the mountain of anecdotal evidence about the negative effects of COVID on human services providers,” Richard Edley, the trade group’s president and CEO said in a statement.
“The pandemic only exacerbated challenges facing social services agencies, and the compounded effect has the most significant repercussions for those in need of supports and services,” Edley continued.
Among the poll’s chief findings:
- “Nearly 50% of responding intellectual disability and autism providers reduced service capacity due to staffing shortages for residential and community-based programs, reducing access to critical services for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
- “Despite experiencing growth in outpatient service delivery, close to 50% of the responding mental health providers reduced their caseloads due to staffing shortages. The need for mental health care is far exceeding providers’ ability to staff these programs.
- “Despite the overwhelming need for direct support professionals, these individuals separated from their positions within three months of hire at an annual turnover rate of more than 130%.
- “During the three-month snapshot, only 10% of the 26,000 applicants were hired. Many cited the low pay, difficult work, uncertain schedules, and a high no-show rate for job interviews.
- “The vacancy rate for direct support professional positions was 24%, resulting in the need to pay an overtime rate for a third of all work hours,” and,
- “While the mean hourly wage for direct support professionals was $14.98, it was still well below starting wages for Sheetz, McDonald’s, Amazon, and other entry-level jobs,” the survey found.
Industry advocates have spent months pleading with the Wolf administration for increased support, asking the administration and state lawmakers to tap the $5 billion in banked federal stimulus money to help them raise wages and restore the services brought on by an industry-wide staffing crisis.
In November, the Democratic administration released the broad contours of its plan to spend $1.2 billion in American Rescue Act funds to shore up home- and community-based services offered through the state’s Medicaid program. Federal officials recently approved the plan, clearing the way for the funding.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity with this federal funding to support those who have been supporting individuals and families in our communities throughout the pandemic,” acting state Human Services Secretary Meg Snead said in a Dec. 11 statement. “With this funding, we are immediately investing in recruitment and retention of Pennsylvania’s caring workforce, which is crucial to providing home and community-based services.”
While providers say they welcome the $1.2 billion infusion, they noted that it will not “close the gap for the other chronically underfunded programs and services that rely on reimbursement rates to establish hourly wages.”
“Without additional funding, wages will continue to stagnate, further entrenching staffing challenges and causing those receiving services to suffer most,” RCPA said in its statement.
Navient, one of the country’s largest student loan-servicers, has reached a $1.85 billion settlement with a coalition of state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania, to resolve years-long allegations of abusive and predatory practices, Marley Parish reports.
Republican David McCormick, the former chief executive of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, has entered the race for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat, Marley Parish also reports.
New federal protections against surprise medical bills are now in effect, the commonwealth’s top insurance official reminded Pennsylvanians on Thursday, Cassie Miller reports.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a blow to the Biden administration’s fight against the pandemic, blocking a federal mandate that workers be vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19 — though the court allowed a separate rule requiring vaccinations for some health care workers. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jacob Fischler has the story.
From me, a column about the GOP’s historical amnesia on voting rights.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the federal government will deploy military medical units to six states to assist hospitals overwhelmed with the recent spike of the omicron coronavirus variant, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.
Democratic U.S. Senate hopefuls John Fetterman and Conor Lamb have joined the call for a congressional stock-trading ban, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.
En la Estrella-Capital:‘Hay mucho en juego’: Los funcionarios de salud de Pa. instan a que los padres nuevos y futuros se vacunen contra el COVID-19. Y la administración de Wolf se centró en coordinar la ayuda federal para el COVID-19, no en un mandato a nivel estatal.
On our Commentary Page this morning, an advocate for parents of kids with intellectual disabilities asks the Wolf administration for help. And, two years into the pandemic, if you want to show embattled healthcare workers you care, wear a mask and get vaccinated, Roger Chesley, of our sibling site, the Virginia Mercury, writes.
More than 100 Philadelphia schools are closed because of COVID-19, the Inquirer reports.
In Pittsburgh, area hospitals are getting ready to comply with the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, the Post-Gazette reports.
Central Pennsylvania grocery stores currently aren’t facing any major shortages, but that could change, PennLive reports.
But in the Lehigh Valley, area grocery stores are facing shortages. The Morning Call explains what’s driving them.
Want to serve on Lancaster City Council? LancasterOnline has instructions on how to apply for a vacant seat.
A rise in fentanyl overdoses is a public health crisis, the York Daily Record reports (paywall).
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, is not seeking re-election this fall, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
Philadelphia’s outgoing school superintendent, William Hite, took the stand Thursday during a second day of testimony in the school funding trial, WHYY-FM reports.
Attendance is down at this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show, WITF-FM reports.
Erie County Executive Brenton Davis is defending his decision to lift a school mask mandate, GoErie reports.
The PA AFL-CIO has endorsed Democrat Josh Shapiro for governor, City & State Pa. reports.
States are moving away from daily COVID-19 case counts to emphasize hospitalizations and other data, Stateline.org reports.
Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day.
What Goes On
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission holds hearings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building on this year’s proposed state House and Senate maps. Pennsylvania acting Physician General Dr. Denise A. Johnson holds an 11:15 a.m. news conference in Harrisburg to stress the need to get vaccinated.
Gov. Tom Wolf holds a 1:45 p.m. newser at a Weis Market in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, to stress the need to get vaccinated.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Abby Rhoad at LancasterOnline, who rings in another trip around the sun today. Congratulations.
Since this newsletter is off Monday, here’s one ahead of the MLK Day holiday. From U2, it’s a live version of the classic Pride (In The Name of Love).
Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The NHL has announced the lineups for the 2022 All-Star Game set to be played on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan Division), Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (Atlantic Division), Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (Central Division) and Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (Pacific Division) have been named team captains.
And now you’re up to date.