KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Workers who care for some of Kansas City’s most vulnerable citizens hope desperately needed funding comes from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act.
The nonprofit Life Unlimited is funded by the state of Missouri and matched federally through Medicaid.
It provides long-term in-home care and services to more than 1,000 adults living with disabilities in the Kansas City area. It’s the largest provider in the area.
But, CEO Julie Edlund says these programs have long been underfunded.
“There are 15,000 direct support professionals across the state of Missouri who support people with disabilities,” Edlund said. “Over 50% of those receive public assistance to meet their daily needs, and one in four live below the federal poverty level.”
Edlund said she’s currently down 55 staffers, nearly one-sixth of what would be her total workforce.
Employees are working 80-to-100-hour weeks to make up for it, all for $12 an hour.
The result is a rotating door of people caring for people like 85-year-old, Marvin.
“The work is very rewarding, emotionally,” said team supervisor and healthcare coordinator Kim Boden. “I feel like I have a purpose, and I come to work every day to serve.”
Boden works with Marvin every day.
“These folks deserve the best care that we can give, but we can’t give it to them if we’re burnt out,” Boden said.
With the lack of funding, Edlund says some people with disabilities can’t even get into housing and sit in limbo on waitlists. She hopes help could be on the way.
Biden’s Build Back Better Act includes $150 billion toward Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services, HCBS, and for better wages to address the staffing shortage.
“That will put in significant money, federal dollars, in to match each state, so that we can increase the wages for our direct support workers,” Edlund said. “And if that’s not done, there’s no way we can continue providing services.”
If passed, Edlund said Life Unlimited will receive an eight percent funding increase in the short-term and six percent after that.
According to reports, a vote in the House could come as soon as this week.