The Legislature has the opportunity to take another bold step to incentivize people to enter the direct care workforce.

L.D. 1718 creates the Essential Support Worker Tuition Grant Program to provide up to four education vouchers, equal to a year’s tuition up to $4,000, at the University of Maine System, Maine Community College System or Maine Maritime Academy for an essential support worker employed 30 or more hours providing in-home or community support services.

The tuition grant program can also be used for a defined family member of the essential support worker. As with any program, there are specific eligibility requirements.

The idea of the bill is to help fill the persistent and severe shortage of workers to care for older adults and people with disabilities so that they may remain at home and part of the community. As a service coordination agency serving all of Maine, SeniorsPlus sees, every day, vulnerable Mainers going without the care they are eligible to receive and need, to remain as independent as possible.

Most of us do not even know what this work is about until we, or someone we know, needs a worker. These essential workers help with bathing, dressing and just getting out of bed. They are the backbone workers of the home care industry, and there simply are not enough of them.

This incentive program would be another arrow in the quiver to help sustain this cadre of workers to support the long-term services and systems of care.

Betsy Sawyer-Manter, Portland, SeniorsPlus CEO

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