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American Rescue Plan Act: Extra Funding for Home and Community-Based Services

Wisconsin’s commitment to home and community-based services (HCBS) received a boost, thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). An estimated $350 million in federal funding will help state residents who are elderly or disabled receive much-needed services to allow them to live as independently as possible. This new funding supports improvements to Wisconsin’s HCBS programs that are unique to the needs and priorities of our residents. HCBS programs receiving funding include:

DHS is using the funding to improve Wisconsin Medicaid services in areas like personal care, private duty nursing, home health, and habilitative services.

What's new

Social Connection and Livable Communities

37 community initiatives are addressing the epidemic of loneliness and isolation amongst older adults and people with disabilities and creating more livable communities for all. | June 11, 2024

Medicaid HCBS grantees share more successes

The latest projects range from expanding parent coaching workshops to help reach underserved families to creating ways for HCBS participants to access essential supports remotely. | June 10, 2024

Caregiver training is now available in Spanish

Our certified direct care professional program is now offered in Spanish. You can become a certified caregiver in about 30 hours. | March 14, 2024

ARPA HCBS funding details

President Biden signed ARPA into law on March 11, 2021. The act provides a total of $1.9 trillion in economic stimulus to aid the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $350 billion earmarked for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, Wisconsin is receiving $2.5 billion.

Section 9817 of ARPA gives qualifying states a temporary 10% increase to their federal matching percentage on specific home and community-based services from April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is using ARPA funds to strengthen our HCBS programs, address direct care workforce issues, and develop strategies to delay the need for long-term care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services granted conditional approval of the plan, allowing Wisconsin to start claiming the increase. We have until March 31, 2025, to invest approximately $350 million in funding.

State initiatives

These strategic initiatives led by DHS and funded by ARPA represent much-needed investments to help our most vulnerable state citizens live their best lives.

Healthcare provider's hand holding a patient's hand

Medicaid HCBS Rate Reform

We rolled out a 5% rate increase for home and community-based services on January 1, 2022. It applies to multiple service providers who work with Medicaid programs, like Family Care, Family Care Partnership, IRIS, PACE, the Children’s Long-Term Supports Program, SSI Managed Care, BadgerCare Plus Managed Care, and Medicaid Fee for Service.

Wisconsin’s frail elders and people of all ages with disabilities rely on HCBS to meet their daily needs. HCBS are a cost-effective alternative to higher-cost institutional services, such as nursing home care or hospital services. Higher reimbursement rates allow HCBS providers to better recruit the staff who are critical to providing care to our members.

This project is looking to establish a minimum fee schedule for select HCBS services.

Older adult laughing with caregiver

Direct Care Workforce Reform and Analysis

Wisconsin’s direct caregiving workforce is the backbone of HCBS. To better recruit, support, and retain these vital workers, we are using ARPA funds to:

  • Conduct workforce surveys to assess turnover, tenure, wages, benefits, and other factors.
  • Implement a tiered-rate career ladder for personal care and supportive home care workers that rewards professional advancement.
  • Expand career opportunities through a statewide professional credentialing and continuing education program. Learn more at
  • Design a statewide registry of direct care workers. It will include credentialing details plus specialty education and expertise. Qualified providers can register here for this free platform, WisCaregiverConnections.

Older person comforting another older adult

Medicaid HCBS Innovation Grants

A grants initiative is creating opportunities to strengthen HCBS programs. Currently, over 100,000 children and adults receive HCBS services in Wisconsin. The grants direct new resources to some of the most pressing issues faced by this population. Grants are assisting providers with COVID-19 recovery and improving, enhancing, and expanding their services.

Close up of hand and pen completing a survey

Tribal Long-Term Care Enhancements

This DHS initiative aims to support tribal communities through a comprehensive approach. This includes funding for home improvements to ensure safety and independence, expanding access to medical equipment, and enhancing community-based services. With a focus on respecting tribal sovereignty and addressing the unique needs of tribal elders and individuals requiring care, the program has successfully secured additional funding to meet rising demands, illustrating a significant investment in the health and well-being of tribal members.

Two smiling adults

Social Connection Grants

DHS has launched two grant programs to help fight loneliness and make communities more livable for older adults and people with disabilities.

  • Social isolation and loneliness grants have been awarded to various public and private organizations to create new ways to help people feel more connected and less isolated. These efforts aim to improve services at home and in the community so that older adults don't have to move into long-term care facilities too soon.
  • Livable communities grants have been awarded and will support solutions for people to connect, get around, or stay engaged with greater ease, which can reduce the risk of serious health issues. The goal is to make places where older people live better so they can stay independent and involved in their communities longer, avoiding the need for expensive care or moving away from home.

Younger adult comforting an adult in wheelchair outside.

Independent Living Supports Pilot

Many Wisconsin residents who don't require long-term care services or are not currently eligible for Medicaid could benefit from short-term, flexible support to stay independent and healthy. For example, home modifications or small amounts of supportive home care or respite care would allow more people to remain in their own homes. This would help ease the increased burden on Wisconsin’s long-term care system as our population ages.

DHS is collaborating with partners to implement a pilot program. The pilot will offer short-term, flexible, and limited services and support for people at risk of entering Medicaid long-term care. This pilot will provide invaluable insight into how people seek information about services and support. It will also help us understand potential barriers to accessing those services.

Close up of white and brown dog with a dark patch on his right eye and its ears folded back sitting by leg wearing blue jeans in a wheelchair with leash attached outside

Homeless and Housing Services for People with Disabilities 

There are more than 4,500 people experiencing homelessness in Wisconsin, according to a study published by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. This DHS initiative aims to assist individuals with disabilities who are homeless or who may need mental health services.

Two Wisconsin Independent Living Centers (ICLs) have been awarded this grant: Midstate Independent Living Choices and Independent Living Resources. These ICLs will:

  • Use outreach staff to connect people with disabilities to temporary housing, public benefits, counseling, mental health treatment, and other resources to help them live independently rather than being homeless or institutionalized.
  • Follow the peer support model. Outreach staff are peer specialists who can help expose the people receiving services to recovery resources and skills training.
  • Increase the staffing hours of the Mental Health Drop-in Center from 30 hours to 40 hours a week and help support staff travel to meet people face-to-face for mental health services in underserved geographic regions.

This grant program is a vehicle to address racial and health equity disparities for people with disabilities. ICLs awarded will reach approximately 200 individuals by June 2025.

Young person hug elder person in a wheelchair with a person kneeling on other side of the wheelchair outside.

Aging and Disability Resource Center Modernization

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) serve older adults, adults with disabilities, as well as caregivers and professionals in the community. An ADRC provides unbiased information on a broad range of programs and services, helps people understand the various long-term care options available to them, helps people apply for programs and benefits, and serves as the access point for publicly-funded long-term care. To further support their work, DHS will:

  • Develop a searchable website where customers can review resources in their community and obtain a point of contact for their local ADRC. This online resource network will provide an additional, accessible way to review services provided in local, in-person offices throughout the state.
  • Invest in ADRC outreach and education to connect those in need with information about how an ADRC can help.
  • Improve public access to information and resources about publicly funded long-term care programs and other options to remain independent at home.
  • Provide modernized technology to ADRCs and aging programs to support their work in serving customers.

A child is doing homework.

Wisconsin Wayfinder

Families of children with delays, disabilities, special health care needs, or mental health conditions should be able to find programs and services easily, no matter which county they live in or where they go for help. The “no wrong door” approach means that no matter where or how a family reaches out, they will be able to connect to the resources they need to thrive. Launched in the fall of 2023, Wisconsin Wayfinder supports families at that crucial time following a child’s initial diagnosis, when a specific need is first identified, and throughout the years as the child grows and their needs change.

close up view of wheeled walker with person in tan top and pants behind on sidewalk

Assisted Living Reporting, Assessment, and Certification

As our state’s aging population grows, DHS is working to make it easier to collect data from assisted living settings and ensure that data remains secure. That is why we plan to create:

  • An online tracking system for certifying 1-2 bed adult family homes. Key features include multiple levels of access to review information, upload documents, and update statuses. This includes portal access for IRIS adult family home providers and MCOs. They will also be able to set up their own accounts and manage certification information.
  • A secure, online system to review potential HCBS setting providers. Key features include an online application for DHS to administer standard and heightened scrutiny reviews of these settings. The online system also includes portal access for providers to create their own accounts and view statuses, manage documentation, and update applications and plans.
  • A secure, online system to collect data from licensed and certified assisted living providers who will be able to create their own accounts and meet existing reporting requirements. Facility and resident assessment information can be entered to provide information to the Bureau of Assisted Living and help the facilities by providing a framework of areas to be assessed per state licensing/certification regulations and access to review their collected data.

A young adult feeding a treat to a dog

Adult Incident Reporting System

Ensuring the health and safety of people using HCBS is critical. As of December 2023, DHS has developed and implemented a new online system for managed care organizations to report critical incidents to DHS. This new system allows for real-time reporting with improved requirements to assist in tracking and trending data statewide. Using this new data will help DHS identify ways to make needed improvements to increase our member’s health and safety.



Last revised June 11, 2024