While We Wait

February 25, 2021

It appears that both State and Federal budget decisions will be made in the next several days – so while we wait, let me update on the critical issues which will need to be addressed:

  • Minimum Wage – if the Senate (federal) parliamentarian rules that the increase to $15/hour proposed in the House version of the COVID Rescue Act is “germane” then it can be included in the final bill (and the Democrats have enough votes to get it passed).   It will be phased in, but is likely on a schedule that is more rapid than the one already in place in Virginia.  ANCOR is working on the obvious initiative to fund the cost through increases in the Federal share of Medicaid.  The words are the same we have been using – “We won’t fight the increase, but you must fund the increase.”
  • Increased FMAP (Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage) is sure to be included; the 6.2% which has been being approved quarterly during the period of the PHE (Public Health Emergency) will certainly be extended through December 2021. We also expect an additional FMAP bump of ~ 5% to add to that original increase.  The General Fund (State funds) that is replaced can be “swept” from the Medicaid budget and becomes available for other expenses.  
  • We are hoping for a targeted  ~ 7.5% FMAP increase for HCBS.  These funds could not supplant state dollars and would be directed toward  Waiver (and related) services specifically:
    • to increase DSP wages, provide paid sick leave, wage supplements such as hazard pay or shift differentials,or
    • purchase PPE and other related supplies,or
    • recruitment and retention and COVID-specific training,or
    • retainer payments for the duration of the PHE,or
    • transition services, assistive technology and interpreter services, or
    • provide services to reduce the waiting lists. 
  • Some of the options listed above are more feasible than others given the time-limited nature of the funding.
So while we wait, we will continue to sound the alarm about how the current inability to recruit and retain DSPs will only be exacerbated by an increase in minimum wages that is not supported by an increase in funding.