Disabled community calls on Legislative Council to release direct care workforce report
By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
As of the 57th day of the Legislative Session, House Speaker Mike Moyle has not yet assigned Republican members of the House of Representatives to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee.
That means the report the Office of Performance Evaluations worked on regarding the direct care workforce cannot be publicized.
Former Sen. Michelle Stennett requested the report in March of 2022 and JLOC approved the request.
Last year, JLOC began meeting in early February, but this year Moyle, R-Star, told Idaho Reports on Feb. 2 that he wanted to wait and see if a bill regarding OPE’s oversight would pass before assigning members to JLOC. JLOC cannot meet in 2023 without the Speaker’s assignments.
The bill, HB68, would put the oversight of OPE under the Legislative Council, rather than JLOC. JLOC is a bipartisan committee while the Legislative Council is majority-led. The bill passed the House on Feb. 9, but Senate State Affairs has not yet taken it up.
JLOC does have six of the eight members appointed, which could be a quorum, but Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said her co-chair did not feel comfortable meeting until Speaker Moyle had made his appointments.
Rubel told Idaho Reports on Monday that she felt “desperately concerned” the report would go unpublished.
“The point of these reports is that they are supposed to inform policy,” Rubel said.
On March 2, a letter sent to the Legislative Council, signed by 132 Idahoans with disabilities and more than 40 parents and guardians of disabled people, called for immediate release of the OPE report.
“By not releasing the report, the Legislature is disrespecting the resources expended by Idahoans who participated in the study: people with disabilities, including many of us; families, often already stretched too thin; direct care workers, dedicated to their jobs and the people with whom they work – us; private non-profit and for profit businesses who help support people with disabilities – us, by employing direct care workers; and public entities who work with us, helping to amplify our voices and those of our families,” the letter states.
The letter went on to describe the demand families faced.
“We live the crisis daily, often minute by minute. We know firsthand the anguish as we await staff to transfer us from bed to wheelchair, clear vent tubes and clean catheters, help us with personal hygiene, getting dressed and ready for work, help us grocery shop, fill prescriptions, attend church and all the other things that many can take for granted,” the letter states. “Many of us no longer have family who can help. More and more often we wait and no one comes. We wait at a cost of bedsores and sepsis, job loss and increased poverty, loss of housing and homelessness, increased institutionalization and yes, even death for some.”
The transmittal date for legislation is March 6, but leadership could move that back.
“We’re well past the point of new legislation being introduced,” Rubel said. “This delay will have caused them to miss that deadline.”
On Feb. 28, the Idaho Caregiver Alliance and on Feb. 24 the Consortium for Idahoans with Disabilities also both wrote letters to the Legislative Council asking that JLOC meet so the report on the direct care workforce report could be released.
The letter from the Caregiver Alliance states the recommendations in the OPE report “would be invaluable as we attempt to navigate how to address the critical workforce shortage in Idaho.”
The letter from the Consortium of Idahoans with Disabilities states the “The lack of available staffing also impacts a family’s ability to work causing a long-term financial and emotional strain. Families cannot find staff to help support their children with disabilities. Medically necessary needs go unmet.”
The House was not in session on Monday, but Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, told Idaho Reports via email “I asked the Speaker this morning and he said he is working on it,” when asked about JLOC appointments among the Republican caucus.
Idaho Reports filed a record request for a copy of the OPE report last month, but the request was denied because until it is presented to JLOC, the report is confidential.
Copies of the letters sent to Legislative Council can be found below.