Senate Delays Consideration of Build Back Better Act, Negotiations Continue
Following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) announcement last month that he would not vote for the Build Back Better Act in its current form, Democratic leaders and the White House continue to seek the best path forward for the legislation. Private negotiations are continuing, with Congressional aides saying the legislation will likely not be ready for floor action until February at the earliest. Stakeholders have conceded that the final legislation will be changed and likely pared back in its final form. However, given Sen. Manchin’s public support for the $150 billion for permanent funding for home- and community-based services (HCBS) currently included in the package, it seems likely that it could be included in a future bill.
Lutheran Services in America will continue to advocate for the inclusion of at least that $150 billion for HCBS in the package, as well as key provisions that would help address the acute direct care workforce shortage including:
- $1 billion for a grant program funding strategies to recruit and retain direct care workers; and
- the provisions of the WORK NOW Act to create a $50 billion grant program supporting nonprofits in paying wages and benefits.
We also continue to urge Senators to remove provisions which would worsen workforce shortages:
- An unfunded mandate increasing the amount of time a Registered Nurse must be on duty at a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) from 8 hours per day to 24 hours.
- A requirement that the Department of Health and Human Services conduct a study on establishing certain minimum staff to resident ratios in SNFs and to mandate the implementation of the study’s recommendations without providing additional funding for providers.
Supreme Court Blocks Biden Administration’s Workplace Vaccine Rule
The Supreme Court blocked enforcement of the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for workers at large businesses but allowed enforcement of a similar mandate for certain health care workers. While challenges to the mandates from businesses and Republican-led states were returned to lower courts, the ruling suggests that the justices are likely to rule against the business rule if the case reaches the court again, but would look more favorably on the mandate for health care workers.
By Sarah Dobson, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, and Josh Dubensky, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Lutheran Services in America Disability Network