TU: Direct Support Professionals Seek Sustained Wage Assistance in Budget

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS is working with mental health advocates to develop a collaborative response to advancing workforce compensation in the coming state budget. Stay tuned!

Direct Support Professionals Seek Sustained Wage Assistance in Budget
by Matthew Hamilton Albany Times Union November 20, 2017

The bFair2DirectCare coalition scored a big victory last year when the governor and state lawmakers signed off on funding to provide raises for those working for non-profits that serve the disabled.

But 2018 is a new year.

The coalition, which advocates for direct support professionals, is to announce Monday a push to for additional money through 2020 to help bring DSPs to a “living wage.”

The current state budget included a $55 million investment effective Jan. 1 ($45 million for DSPs and $10 million for mental health non-profits). The budget also promises another $55 million installment that kicks in in April 1 (the beginning of the 2018-19 fiscal year).

bFair’s original request was for $45 million per year over six years. What they’re saying now is that $73 million installments paid out Jan. 1, 2019; April 1, 2019; and Jan. 1, 2020 will help the DSPs and mental health non-profits reach targets of $15.52 in minimum pay upstate and $17.70 in minimum pay downstate in a timelier fashion.

The idea here is that the increasing minimum wage is difficult for non-profits to keep up with and makes it more difficult to pay higher competitive wages.

Of course, the state is facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit next fiscal year.

“We’re aware that this will be a tough budget year in Albany, but when you’re a 20-year DSP and still making $12 an hour, every year is a tough budget year,” said Rhonda Frederick, board president of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York.

“This crisis will only worsen if the governor and Legislature back off on their efforts to pay direct care workers a living wage.”


#bFair2DirectCare to Governor & Legislature:Continue Being Heroes for Direct SupportProfessionals, Speed Up Living Wagefor DSPs Who Support New Yorkers w/Disabilities
As Staffing CrisisWorsens, #bFair2DirectCare Seeks Acceleration of Living Wage Funding

“When you’re making $12/hour, every year is a toughbudget year.”

ALBANY – Faced with a worsening staffing crisis and stiffeningcompetition from both commercial businesses and the state government, #bFair2DirectCare today urged Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers to speed up implementation of fundingthat would provide a living wage to non-profit workers who care forNew Yorkerswith disabilities.

“We’re grateful that Governor Cuomo and the Legislature heardour collective call that Direct Support Professionals need and deserve aliving wage. As wehave said all along, this would take a multi-year commitmentof state funds. Now it’s become clear that the multi-year effort must beaccelerated to meet theneeds of DSPs and the good people they support,”said Ann Hardiman, Executive Director, NewYork State Association of Community & Residential Agencies(NYSACRA).

“We’re aware that this will be a tough budget year inAlbany, but when you’re a 20-year DSP and still making $12 an hour, every yearis a tough budgetyear,”saidRhondaFrederick, Board President of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance ofWestern New York.“This crisis will only worsen if the Governor andLegislature back off on their efforts to pay direct care workers a living wage.This is not new money to the state but just a spin-up of the program started inMarch.”

Because of newwage mandates and higher wages offered by other businesses as well as NewYork state agencies, non-profits in New York State – whoreceive almostall their funding from government and provide services on behalf of thestate government – struggle to recruit and retain DSPs. Governmentfundinglevels have been too low to bring these workers anywhere near a living wage,calculated as roughly $17.72 downstate and $15.54 elsewhere.

Former AssemblymanHarvey Weisenberg, whose son Ricky has a developmental disability and whohas founded theHarvey and EllenFoundationto helppeople with developmental disabilities, said:“GovernorCuomo and the Legislature became true heroes this year when they included PhaseI of living wagefunding for DSPs in the state budget. They always knew itwould be a multi-year commitment and now we’re asking them to please not onlyfollow through withthe next phases but accelerate the funding so we can headoff the staffing crisis at our non-profit care agencies.”

Former U.S. Rep. TomReynolds, whose son has a developmental disability, said:“Direct careworkers are the backbone of our non-profit support system forpeople withdevelopmental and other disabilities. New York State government stepped upearlier this year with the first step in living wage funding. Now it’s timenotonly to continue the commitment but speed it up so these workers can get thewages they deserve.”

Tom McAlvanah,Executive Director of the Interagency Council of Developmental DisabilitiesAgencies (IAC), said:“Our non-profits and DSPs know what itmeans to operate ona tight budget. But to be honest, the amount of money we need to finally giveour workers a living wage is little more than a rounding error inthe contextof New York State’s $160 billion budget.”

In the 2017-18 state budget, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislaturebegan to address the imbalance between wages of direct support staff comparedwith theirduties and responsibilities, by providing the first two of sixinstallments to raise DSPs to a living wage as follows: Effective 1/1/18, $55million to adjustsalaries for direct support workers with a second $55 millioninvestment in direct support workforce wages effective 4/1/18.

Given the worsening staffing crisis, we cannot wait sixyears, as was originally planned. We are requesting aspin-upof the remaining four installments (into threeinstallmentsover two fiscal years) of the six-part plan initiated last year, as follows: $73million on 1/1/19, 4/1/19 and 1/1/20.

**Importantly, #bFair is seeking no additional funding, just a spin-up of the funding alreadyrequested as part of the program rolled out earlier this year.**

Susan Constantino,President/CEO, Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS), said:“Gov. Cuomo and members of the Assembly andSenate truly were heroes in thelast round of budget talks, but the funding included in the current state budgetwas only the down payment on what’s needed forDSPs. As uncertainty about stateand federal revenues grows, we need them to speed up the multi-year fundingneeded to raise DSPs to a living wage.”

Michael Seereiter, President/CEOof the New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA), said:“We knowthis will be a tough budget year in New Yorkbut there is no way around theimpact this staffing crisis will have on our state. If the Governor andLegislature don’t move forward with funding this year, it willend up costingthe State even more down the road. Nobody wants that.”

Seth Stein, ExecutiveDirector & General Counsel, The Alliance of Long Island Agencies (ALIA),said:“We have full-time DSPs who still need food stampsor must workmultiple jobs or 80 hours a week to make ends meet. In a state that pridesitself on justice, action is needed now to ensure DSPs can earn a livingwage.”

Jason Marlowe of the DirectSupport Professionals Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS) said:“We knowstorm clouds are ahead for the state budget.But the storm is already ragingover DSPs and the people they support in our non-profit agencies. If the Statedoesn’t come through now, these good people withdisabilities will be thelosers and costs to taxpayers will only grow in the future.”

The tens of thousands of DSPs working at non-profitorganizations help support and serve more than 130,000 New Yorkers with autism,brain injuries,Down syndrome and other disabilities. These non-profitorganizations provide these services on behalf of the state and at a fractionof the cost. Non-profitsupport agencies have taken on this responsibility forthe state as an outgrowth of the move toward deinstitutionalization followingthe Willowbrookscandal in the 1970s.

Non-profit organizations from across New York State thatsupport people with intellectual and developmental disabilities came togetherin 2016 as #bFair2DirectCare to fight for aliving wage for direct support professionals. Wage mandates for fast food andretail workers and stagnant state reimbursementhave caused many DSPs to lookto other, often less demanding and better paying fields, causing a majorstaffing crisis for community organizations.

Data released earlier this yearprovidervacancy rate above 30 percent. Nearly one in every four direct care workers nowleave the job in less than a year.

Respondents to the #bFair2DirectCare 2016 Vacancy and Turnover Survey also reported paying formore than 7.5 million hours of overtime. This represents anincrease ofmore than a third (33.8 percent) when compared to 5.6 million overtime hours in2014.

Arnold Ackerley ofthe Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) said:“Ourcoalition is back stronger than ever, supported by our families,localcommunities and our workforce. Our priority is making sure all New Yorkers havean equal chance to live life to the fullest.Now, we need our champions tofinish the fight for a DSP living wage andshow our priority is their priority.”

Tania Seaburg,Interim Executive Director and Chief Policy and Operations Officer for The Arcof New York, said:“The #bFair2DirectCare plan for aliving wage by 2019 as introduced today will show the state is keepingits commitment to our Direct Support Professionals and the people and familiestheysupport.”

The members of the coalition have spent the time since thelast state budget passed working with the Executive agencies and localorganization toimplement the first stage of the living wage for DSPs.Many people assumed the funding was availablewith passage of the budget, but the budget approved earlier this yearstartsthe increased funding on January 1, 2018.Coalition members have done webinars on the new funding, have met withstate regulatory and budget officialson the implementation of the multi-yearDSP living wage, and are planning forums for DSPs to learn about the fundingand how it will affect them.

# # #

About #bFair2DirectCare

#bFair2DirectCare is the voice of morethan 130,000 New Yorkers with developmental and other disabilities, who oftencannot speak for themselves.#bFair2DirectCare is also the call toaction to remind state leaders that direct care non-profit agency workers areagents of the state who need a fair rate of paythat is commensurate with theirvital support responsibilities.

#bFair2DirectCare members include

Alliance of LongIsland Agencies (ALIA)
Cerebral PalsyAssociations of New York State (CP of NYS)
The DevelopmentalDisability Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY)
DirectSupport Professional Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS)
The InterAgencyCouncil of Developmental Disabilities Agencies (IAC)
The NYS Associationof Community & Residential Agencies (NYSACRA)
The Arc of New York(formerly NYSARC)
New York StateRehabilitation Association (NYSRA)
Self-AdvocacyAssociation of New York State (SANYS)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BFair2DirectCare
Twitter: @Fair2DirectCare
Hashtag: #bFair2DirectCare
Web site: www.bFair2DirectCare.com