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ALBANY, NY -- Representatives of the #bFair2DirectCare Campaign today delivered chocolate hearts to Governor Cuomo in the hopes he would “open his heart” to the plight of workers who care for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities and are asking Albany to fund a living wage.
“In the last six weeks alone, the Governor has given countless speeches, cut casino ribbons, and announced tens of millions of funding and grants. The Governor took time to tow a car out of the snow but he hasn’t uttered a word about New Yorkers with developmental disabilities,” said Ann M. Hardiman, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Residential and Community Agencies (NYSACRA). “We hope he opens his heart to the crisis facing non-profits that serve people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities. Maybe chocolate will help.”
The presentation followed a #bFair2DirectCare rally at the 4th Annual Joint Legislative & Policy Forum of NYSACRA and the New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA).
“We’re asking Governor Cuomo to #bOurValentine by adding $45 million in his 30-day budget amendments to begin to provide a living wage for direct support professionals who support New Yorkers with developmental disabilities,” said NYSRA CEO Michael Seereiter, who noted that direct support professionals, or DSPs as they are known, are primarily women and people of color.
The $45 million amounts to 0.0288 percent of the total state budget and would help alleviate a worsening staffing crisis at non-profits that support people with developmental disabilities. These non-profits, who serve nearly 130,000 New Yorkers, receive 90 percent of their funding and provide these services so the state doesn’t have to, and at rates less expensive than state-run facilities.
New York began relying on non-profit care for people with developmental disabilities in the aftermath of the Willowbrook scandal in the 1970s.
Last week, #bFair2DirectCare announced that a majority of the majorities in the Senate and Assembly – meaning Assembly Democrats, Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference – supports including $45 million in this year’s state budget to begin the process of paying direct care workers a living wage, which would average $15.50 to $17.50 an hour.
If the funding is not provided, it’s entirely likely that many non-profit providers may be forced to close their doors, pushing the people in their care back into the state system – which would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more.
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After eight years without significant Medicaid rate increases, providers of supports and services for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities face a perfect storm of inadequate funding, new laws, and policies that threaten community integration, the level of support and the civil rights that people with disabilities have achieved.
Organizations that support people with developmental disabilities have seen only one rate increase since the recession of 2008, an average increase of less than one-half of one percent per year. Medicaid rate increases to cover wage hikes have been frozen for seven of the eight most recent years. These jobs used to be good jobs, but they have lost their purchasing power, are no longer competitive, and in many cases now start at or just above minimum wage.
More than 90 percent of the funding that sustains these organizations comes from the government. The only way that these organizations can raise wages for direct support professionals, teachers’ aides, drivers, cooks, and others making minimum wage, or a little bit more, is for the government to increase the rates they provide for the delivery of these critical services to New York’s most vulnerable citizens.
Currently, fast food restaurants and big box stores are paying as much as, if not more, than those caring for people with disabilities – leading to growing turnover rates in direct support positions. Per a 2016 Vacancy and Turnover Survey recently provided to the state Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, competition from other employers has increased to the point where coalition agencies currently have a nearly 10 percent vacancy rate and more than a 23 percent turnover rate in these important jobs – a significant increase in both vacancies and turnover in just the last year.
#bFair2DirectCare members include
Alliance of Long Island Agencies (ALIA)
Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS)
The Developmental Disability Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY)
Direct Support Professional Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS)
The InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies (IAC)
The NYS Association of Community Residential Agencies (NYSACRA)
New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA)
Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS)
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Our words are powerful, and should be treated with respect. So how do our words impact others, and how can we choose them wisely? Today, we’re going to find out.
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