Rally Urges Support For Direct Care Workers

NYAPRS Note: As the minimum wage issue heats up around New York State, nonprofit sector workers – particularly those who serve people with developmental disabilities – are rallying to urge Governor Cuomo to provide the necessary funding to agencies that would otherwise be unable to afford the expected increase. As a result, the Twitter hashtag #bFair2DirectCare has gained both traction and attention in the last several days.

NYAPRS has prioritized the minimum wage issue for our folks too. In an effort to attract and retain the best workers, mental health will need a sizeable investment from NYS to afford the $15 per hour hike. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks…


Rally Urges Support For Direct Care Workers

Minimum Wage: Organizers say bill must include those who work with developmental disabilities.

Staff reports Lockport Journal March 19, 2016

TOWN OF NIAGARA — In Niagara County, 1,642 individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities receive support from Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, Empower, and Rivershore.

According to Kellie Spychalski, executive director/CEO of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, those agencies employ more than 750 “dedicated, skilled, and extremely hardworking direct support professionals.”

Speaking at a rally Friday afternoon at Empower Children’s Academy in the Town of Niagara, Spychalski said it’s only fair that the “people who are truly at the crux of providing the vital supports which allow people to live, learn, work, and play alongside their peers in the community be appropriately compensated for the critical work they do.”

Friday’s rally was attended by advocates for people with developmental disabilities who are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York state Legislature to #bFair2DirectCare in the drive to raise New York’s minimum wage. The #bFair2DirectCare campaign seeks to ensure that non-profit organizations that provide direct services to 128,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities — including autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome — are not saddled with an unfunded mandate if the proposed minimum wage increase is enacted.

Jeff Paterson, CEO of Empower said, “Today, we are shining a light on the implications of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to increase New York state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. All across New York state over the last two weeks, people have sent a loud and clear message to Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers: please provide the state funding to back up those increases for people who work with people with disabilities, the elderly — our most vulnerable.”

Added Jay Mapstone, executive director of Rivershore, an affiliate of People Inc. said, “Direct support staff have one of the most important jobs in our community, yet Rivershore and other non-profit agencies have never been given the resources by New York state to pay them a salary commensurate with what they do. Now after many years of advocating for better pay for our workforce we may finally be on with verge of a significant increase to the state minimum wage. However, without a funding increase it won’t be possible for agencies to meet this standard, leaving them with a choice to either lay off staff or go out of business, both of which are unacceptable.”

The not-for-profit agencies participating in the #bFair2DirectCare campaign provide direct care to people with developmental disabilities and are calling on the governor and Legislature to include funding in the 2016-17 state budget to allow them to provide corresponding raises to their direct support employees numbering more than 100,000.

The campaign says it supports Cuomo’s proposed minimum wage increase, but reminds him 90 percent of the funding for supports for people with developmental disabilities comes from government sources and they would need increased funding to avoid potential service reductions, layoffs and denial of services.

The campaign kicked off with a series of rallies held last Friday in Buffalo, Suffolk County, Rochester, outside Cuomo’s Manhattan office and Wednesday at the Capitol in Albany.