Employment and Community First CHOICES Workforce QuILTSS Initiative Survey 2020: Year Three Report

Tennessee East
2020 Direct Support Workforce State Overview

Organization Characteristics

97% of services are provided in the East region, 2% in the Middle region, and 1% in the West region. Services are provided in 793 service sites in 20 organizations, including 54% family or individual homes, 25% agency or facility sites, 20% job sites, and 1% other sites. 2,133 people received services. 2,346 DSPs, 184 FLSs, 183 managers, 271 administrative, and 690 other employees than those previously listed were employed.

DSP Employment

Of the 15 organizations who responded to employment types of DSPs, 1% were on call or temporary employees, 20% were part-time, and 79% were full-time. 56% of DSPs worked across more than one service type. Service types may include ECF CHOICES, DIDD Waiver, Vocational Rehabilitation, and CHOICES (Non-ECF CHOICES).

DSP Vacancy

The overall vacancy rate for DSPs in 19 organizations was 19%. 29% of part-time positions and 22% of full-time positions were vacant.

DSP Turnover

Overall, there was 55% annual DSP turnover in 19 organizations reporting. Of those DSPs who left their positions in 2020, 42% left within 0-6 months of hire, and 21% left within 6-12 months of hire. The top three reasons for DSP departure were as follows: 67% “no call/no show,” 57% “found another job at another company,” and 52% “pay too low, needed better pay.”

DSP Wages

20 organizations reported wage data. The average hourly starting DSP wage was $10.04, the average hourly DSP wage was $10.88, and the average highest DSP wage was $12.86. 15% of organizations paid DSPs different wages across service types.

DSP Benefits

On average, 54% of DSPs in an organization were enrolled in health care plans. For full-time DSPs, 71% of organizations offered paid time off, 67% offered sick leave, 50% offered paid vacation, and 86% offered health insurance. For part-time DSPs, 8% of organizations offered paid time off, 0% offered sick leave, 0% offered paid vacation, and 8% offered health insurance. Organizations that were unable to distinguish between part- and full-time DSPs answered for “all DSPs.” For all DSPs, 33% of organizations offered paid time off, 25% offered sick leave, 25% offered paid vacation, and 33% offered health insurance.


A total of 131,425 hours of overtime were paid out to DSPs in the last 30 days from 18 organizations.

FLS Wages

Of 18 organizations reporting, the average starting frontline supervisor (FLS) annual salary was $31,871. The average FLS annual salary was $33,976. The average highest FLS annual salary was $38,581.

FLS Turnover

There was 18% overall annual FLS turnover in 18 organizations reporting. Of those FLSs who left their positions in 2020, 17% of FLSs left within 0-6 months of hire, and 22% left within 6-12 months of hire.

FLS Vacancy

The overall vacancy rate for FLSs in 17 organizations was 17%.

COVID-19 Experiences

In East Tennessee, of the 17 organizations who reported, 18% closed due to government mandate. 12% of organizations furloughed or laid off staff, 0% of organizations eliminated staff positions, and 18% of organizations cut staff hours. 59% relocated staff to another setting and 41% of organizations had staff living in residences to slow COVID-19 spread. 35% of organizations listed another experience during the pandemic.

Of the 21 organizations reporting, 90% of organizations were short-staffed due to the pandemic and 81% hired new staff due to the pandemic. Of those new staff, 25% of organizations gave staff regular training, 62% reported additional COVID-19 training, and 13% reported that staff received no training at all.

In 18 organizations, 50% reported that they gave a monetary bonus to all DSPs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those that gave DSPs a monetary bonus, 22% gave a $0.01-$1.00 per hour bonus, 11% gave a $1.01-$2.00 per hour bonus, 0% gave a $2.01-$3.00 per hour bonus, 0% gave a $3.01+ per hour bonus, and 67% gave a lump sum bonus. 100% of organizations report that there is an end date for the wage increase.