Providing Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Results - Employment Information
A direct support professional (DSP) was defined in the survey as an employee who spends at least 50% of their time providing supports for a person with IDD. There were many job titles that fell under this definition. Direct Support Professionals included: Direct Care Worker, Direct Support Worker, Personal Care Assistant (PCA), Employment Consultant/Job Coach, Home Health Aide/Resident Assistant, Independent Living Skills or Life Skills Instructor, Community Living Specialist, and Direct Support Professional. Some managers, supervisors, and other licensed staff completed the survey. All of the individuals who completed the survey indicated that they spend at least 50% of their time providing supports, but their job titles often differed and some (16%) identified themselves as supervisors/managers/program coordinators. What follows is a breakdown of the 8,914 employees who completed the survey by the job category they selected to identify their roles.
Job titles of people who completed the survey
- 80% Direct Support Professionals,
- 16% Manager, Supervisor, Site Program Director, Program Coordinator,
- 1% Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Nursing Assistant (NA), Registered Nurse, (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and
- 2% Other, including, ABA Specialist, Administrative, Behavior Professional/Analyst/Clinician, Clinical Specialist/Counselor, Entitlement Specialist, Family Life/Lifestyle Teacher, Owner/CEO, Medical Counselor/Liaison, Mental Health Counselor/Practitioner, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner, Speech Pathologist/Language Pathologist/Speech Therapist, and Volunteer.
Managers, supervisors, and other licensed staff (a total of 19% of the sample) were excluded from the calculation of average wages in this report.
The majority of respondents (74%) had worked in direct support for more than 36 months. Four percent had worked in direct support for less than 6 months, 6% had worked 6 to 12 months, 8% had worked 12 to 24 months, and 8% had worked 24 to 36 months. These results are presented in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Percentage of Respondents by Length of Time Working in Direct Support
Percentage of Respondents
Fewer than 6 months
More than 36 months
The participants who completed the survey also had longer tenure with their primary employer when compared to national averages (National Core Indicators, 2019). The majority worked for more than 36 months at their primary employer (59%). Ten percent had worked at their primary employer for 24-36 months, 12% for 12-24 months, 11% for 6-12 months, and 8% for less than six months.
Settings where Supports were Provided
Supports and services were provided to people with disabilities in a variety of settings, including 61% working in agency or facility settings (including group homes), 39% in family or individual homes, 17% in day programs, and 5% in other sites. Other sites included Work/Job Sites, Deaf & Hard of Hearing Individuals, Family Support, Hospital, School (high school, college, pre-K, elementary school), Remote/Telehealth/Virtual, and Community Non-employment (e.g., fun, volunteer, recreation). Figure 3 details the percentage of participants working in the types of settings. Some participants provided services in multiple settings, so percentages do not add to 100%. It is important to consider this sample of DSPs in the context of the services and settings in which they deliver services. This sample represents a much larger of DSPs working in agency/facility sites than the proportion of these types of settings in the disability services system in which most services are delivered in family or individual homes (Larson et al., 2020)
Figure 3. Percentage of Respondents Working in Different Setting Types
Respondents by Setting type
Family or individual homes
Wages Paid and Primary Wage Earner Status
Table 1 details wage related information for the sample. Nearly ¾ of participants (74%) were the primary wage earner in the household. Participants were asked to report their hourly wage rate on January 1, 2020. The purpose of this was to distinguish the base rate paid to DSPs without salary augmentations paid to essential workers by some states due to COVID-19. For DSP positions, the average hourly wage was $13.63 (median = $13.10, range $7.25 to $30.00). The other types of workers were paid higher wages on average, and were excluded from this analysis of average wages. Managers, Supervisors, Directors, and Coordinators made, on average, $17.83 for an hourly wage (median = $17.00, range $8.00 to $62.50). CNA/NALPN/RN make, on average, $19.82 for an hourly wage (median = $18.00, range $7.90 to $50.00). Other Positions make, on average, $18.53 for an hourly wage (median = $18.53, range $8.92 to $92.00). See the “Job Titles” section for the description of “other positions.”
Table 1. Wage Related Information
Self-Identified as Essential Worker
Worked in direct support for 36+ months
Average hourly wage of DSPs*
$13.63 (median = $13.10, range $7.25 to $30.00)
Received salary augmentation as Essential Worker
Self-identified as the primary wage earner in their household
*Note. Managers, supervisors, and other licensed staff such as CNA/NA/LPN/RN (a total of 19% of the sample) were excluded from calculation of average wages in this report.
Salary Augmentation for Essential Workers
One benefit of being identified as an “essential worker” is access to essential worker salary augmentations. In most states when a workforce is considered essential, funding is available to pay them more for the risks they take in doing their jobs. $13.63 was the average wage of a DSP before the pandemic. Twenty-four percent (1,776) of survey respondents were paid more during the COVID-19 pandemic due to an essential worker salary augmentation. The amount of wage increase for participants is depicted in Figure 4. Nineteen percent received an increase of $0.01 to $1.00 per hour, 45% received $1.01 to $2.00 per hour, 15% received $2.01 to $3.00 per hour, and 21% received $3.01 or more per hour.