An announcement of the survey report about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the direct support workforce. It includes the logos of ICI and NADSP.

Direct-support professionals (DSPs) are working more hours due to COVID-19, but few are getting higher hourly rates to compensate for the added health risks of the pandemic, a survey from the Institute on Community Integration and the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals shows.

The survey of nearly 9,000 DSPs—conducted April 23 through May 27 and believed to be the largest-ever sample of the DSP workforce—found that just 24 percent are receiving extra pay due to infection risk.

More than half of those surveyed said they are working more hours, including 25 percent who reported working more than 16 extra hours per week compared with their normal shifts. Nearly three-quarters are the primary wage earners in their household, with an average wage of $13.63 per hour before the start of the pandemic. This wage is higher than the national average of $12 per hour due to the tenure of those who completed the survey.

Many said they know someone personally who has left the profession this year. Of the 42 percent who knew someone who has left, nearly 60 percent said the reason was fear of becoming infected or a lack of childcare.

“These findings underscore the dire need for higher wages, credentialing programs, and funded protection measures for ongoing and future waves of the pandemic,” said Amy Hewitt, ICI director. “DSPs must be universally recognized as essential workers and have access to protective equipment to do their jobs.”

More comprehensive safety training on public health crises for both DSPs and people with disabilities are needed, she said, citing survey findings showing that 27 percent of newly-hired DSPs were not getting typical orientation and preservice training.

Plans for a six-month follow-up survey are underway, with results expected early in 2021. Read the current survey results.