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The Respite Care Association of Wisconsin (RCAW) seeks direct care workers who provide home and community-based services (HCBS) for people with disabilities and older adults to apply for the Worker-Owned HCBS Workforce Development Cooperative Grant up to $50,000 (contingent on funding availability and demand) to help direct care workers establish their own employee-owned cooperative businesses (or transition a current business to an employee-owned cooperative).

Mirroring national trends, Wisconsin’s market for personal care services is growing rapidly due to the unprecedented growth of the state’s older adult population. While demand for in-home care is at an all-time high, the home care industry faces an untenable caregiver shortage crisis like much of the rest of the country. Direct care workers face low wages, poor working conditions, lack of respect, and insufficient training and on-the-job support. As a result of inadequate job quality, the caregiving system faces unprecedented recruitment, staffing, and retention challenges.

In recognition of these challenges, the Respite Care Association of Wisconsin is exploring how investing in the cooperative model could be an impactful strategy for addressing the respite shortage across the state. Watch for more information about opportunities to explore Worker-Owned Cooperatives in your community paired with seed funds to offset start-up costs!

The ICA Group completed this Wisconsin Home Care Market Opportunity Assessment to identify promising geographic areas and strategies for developing worker-owned home care cooperatives in Wisconsin.

A business that is jointly owned and democratically controlled by some or all of its employees. No one can own more than one share of the business- 1 member, 1 share. Profits are shared equitably based upon the employee-owner’s labor contributions. The cooperative has a Board of Directors that is comprised of employee—owners, which is elected by the coop members.  For more information about cooperatives, click on the link for UW Center for Cooperatives.

The grant was established to address challenges related to attracting and maintaining direct care workers who provide HCBS for people with disabilities and older adults. This grant initiative is being funded with federal grant funds from the Administration for Community Living to create an employee-owned cooperative. The cooperatives grant opportunity is intended to help current direct care workers gain more control over their work environment through the employee-owned cooperative business model.  

Grants are available on a first come first serve basis based on readiness Grants will be competitive. Grant money will be distributed on an as-needed basis, pending approval. 

Grant funds must be used to support the development and sustainability of the employee-owned health or human services cooperatives. Business development efforts include, but are not limited to: 

  • Legal advice
  • Licensing fees 
  • Specialized consulting services from business experts 
  • Business equipment and supplies 
  • Insurance costs 
  • Beginning staff salaries (while waiting for reimbursement from the state of Wisconsin as it can take up to 60+ days to be reimbursed for a service you provided – understanding billing/coding is key to mitigating this issue) 
  • Payroll or other software 
  • Employee training 
  • Building rental expenses. 

In addition to the employee-owned cooperatives grants, RCAW and/or its Partner Agencies will provide culturally relevant business development and technical assistance services to the cooperatives, including but not limited to: 

  • Supporting the cooperatives as they develop and monitor business plans. 
  • Providing in-person and virtual classroom-based entrepreneurial training. 
  • Providing one-on-one business counseling. 

Providing technical assistance services, such as connecting cooperatives with specialists and other resources as needed.  

Download the Ways RCAW Can Support a HCBS Worker-Owned Co-op document.

Groups are eligible to apply for this employee-owned cooperatives grant if: 

  • At least one cooperative member is both:
  • Your cooperative will provide at least one HCBS service for people with disabilities or older adults. 
  • Your cooperative will have at least five members, and at least five members are not part of the same family as any other cooperative member.  

If your application is selected to move forward, before receiving initial funding, you will be required to submit:  

  • A state or federal photo ID copy for each cooperative member 
  • Documentation demonstrating that at least one member meets the eligibility requirements.  
  • Confirmation that each cooperative member who will be providing direct care can pass a DHS background check. 
  • Signatures from all cooperative members on the “We attest…” statements listed in the next section (however, only one or two members need to sign the attestations in this application to be considered for the grant). 

Throughout the program, you will be required to submit:  

  • Data on the cooperative member’s current work environments, including but not limited to wages and benefits, to use as a cross comparison to evaluate the success of the program. 
  • Data on the cooperative’s membership, business activities, revenues and profits, people served and other information to evaluate the success of the cooperative.  
  • A background check for each cooperative member. 

While a background check will not be required to start the grant project, please keep in mind that a background check may be required as a part of the HCBS licensing process. Failure to pass the background check and/or subsequent failure to start a cooperative will require the grant recipients to reimburse RCAW for grant funds received. Please note that not all criminal convictions will disqualify you. Please visit this site for more specific information:

RCAW would like to thank our
subject matter expert team

Overview of RCAW Respite Grant Programs

Updated April 01, 2024 

Dollars provided to new and existing respite care agencies to increase respite across the state
Dollars provided to agencies through the Group Respite Grant Program
Dollars provided to family caregivers to receive respite care through the Caregiver Respite Grant Program
Dollars provided to family caregivers through the Supplemental Respite Grant Program