Click onto the link below to watch a great story that was broadcasted by 12News in Brooklyn -
The #bFair2DiectCare demonstration held on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 before Governor Cuomo's State of the State address at the University of Albany garnered press coverage in the Albany Times Union with the two photos below appearing in both the paper's online version and the actual paper itself.
Earlier news ...
While we have been busy with lots of behind the scenes work on our Living Wage Request of $45 million in the Governor’s Budget each year for the next 6 years for DSP (and other low wage worker) salaries, we had a public unveiling of the “Request” this past Monday. The event was very successful with lots of press coverage. Harvey Weisenberg joined us along with many area legislators for the well attended event outside the War Room in the State Capitol. Below are links to the coverage we received.
Here is a link to former Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg from Long Island and Congressman and Assembly Leader Tom Reynolds from Western New York on Capital Tonight. http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/capital-tonight-interviews/2016/10/17/direct-service-providers-seek-living-wage.html
To listen to Harvey and Tom on the CAPITOL PRESSROOM radio program, please go to http://www.wcny.org/radio/capitolpressroom/. Look for Oct 18, 2016: Buffalo Teachers’ contract, #bFair2DirectCare, Alison Boak.
Here is some other coverage from the event:
http://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/spin-cycle/advocates-for-disabled-seek-higher-pay-for-caregivers-1.12466626 (will require a subscription to Newsday to read the full article, text is below)
https://www.politicopro.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/10/advocates-push-for-45-million-a-year-for-direct-support-workers-106441 (will require a subscription from Politico Pro, text is below)
As a bonus, here are three clips from the Syracuse event earlier this week:
Advocates for disabled seek higher pay for caregivers
ALBANY — An early start to demonstrations seeking to influence Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget erupted Monday in a bipartisan push to increase state funding to nonprofit agencies so their caregivers can be paid the rising minimum wage without forcing staff cuts.
“If we can’t retain these people, it’s a crisis,” said former Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) who has continued his advocacy for disabled children and adults and their caregivers since leaving the legislature in 2014.
Weisenberg is the father of a developmentally disabled child, as are several of the Democrats and Republicans who attended Monday’s rally, which drew a couple of hundred disabled people and their caregivers to a packed a Capitol hallway.
Cuomo is scheduled to release his budget proposal in January.
Cuomo spokeswoman Jennifer O’Sullivan said Monday that the current budget includes increased pay for many direct support workers. She also said the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is exploring “career ladders” and credential programs to promote the field as a desirable career and to improve training.
The group that demonstrated Monday wants additional state funding for nonprofit groups that depend on state money so they can meet the rising minimum wage requirements enacted a year ago, bringing wages from $9 to $15 an hour in stages that differ in various areas of the state. An order by Cuomo’s minimum wage board, however, will increase the minimum wage for fast-food restaurant workers more quickly.
“When people flipping hamburgers make more money than those taking care of human beings, something is wrong,” Weisenberg said.
From: POLITICO New York
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2016 1:53:43 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
Subject: Advocates push for $45M a year for direct support workers
Advocates push for $45M a year for direct support workers
By Josefa Velasquez
10/17/2016 01:50 PM EDT
ALBANY - A coalition of groups and lawmakers who advocate for the developmentally disabled gathered at the Capitol Monday to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo for funding in the state budget to provide a "living wage" for direct support workers.
The so-called #bFair2DirectCare Coalition is asking for $45 million in new state funds for the next six years that would be matched by federal funds to raise the wages of workers who care for the developmentally disabled.
Former assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who has a developmentally disabled son, called it a "tragedy" that fast food workers could eventually earn $15 an hour in some parts of the state, with those caring for the developmentally disabled on the same pay scale.
Earlier this year, the coalition pushed for more compensation for direct care professionals when legislative leaders announced the phase-in increase in the minimum wage, which would rise to $15 an hour in portions of the state.
Nonprofits, and some lawmakers, shuddered at the idea of an increased minimum wage without a funding stream attached to it. Ultimately, the budget allocated $65 million this fiscal year to offset the cost of the minimum wage increase for nonprofits and an additional $198 million next fiscal year.
The minimum wage increase, paired with new federal overtime rules and no "significant" Medicaid rate increases has left parents and relatives of the developmentally disabled worried that those caring for their family members will flee their jobs.
According to a 2016 Vacancy and Turnover Survey by the coalition, which was presented to the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, competition from other employers has increased and coalition agencies are now faced with a nearly 10 percent vacancy rate and more than 20 percent turnover rate in the last year, said Michael Seereiter, president and CEO of the New York Rehabilitation Association.
#bFair2DirectCare Coalition, Joined by Legislative Legends,
Urges Increased NYS Investment to Help
Direct Support Workers Receive a Living Wage
$45 Million Annual Need; Small Budget Impact with Huge Impact on
Workers Who Care for People with Developmental Disabilities
ALBANY, NY – The #bFair2DirectCare Coalition, joined by legends of the Legislature, current elected officials of both parties, numerous self-advocates and people who support New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, gathered today at the FDR exhibit in the New York State Capitol and called on Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers to make a much-needed state investment to provide a living wage for direct support workers in the upcoming state budget.
Using living wage metrics that identify the minimum full time salary for meeting the basic necessities, the #bFair2DirectCare coalition said $45 million in new state funds for each of the next six years, that would be matched by federal funds, would help them achieve Franklin Delano Roosevelt's dream of a living wage for Direct Support Professionals.
“This is a small investment for the state but it will have a tremendously positive impact on people who do very important and difficult work,” said Michael Seereiter, President & CEO of the New York State Rehabilitation Association, who added that organizations that support individuals with developmental disabilities have seen only one salary rate increase since the recession of 2008, an average salary increase of less than one-half of one percent per year.
“The investment we request can help turn the tide and Governor Cuomo can be a leader in improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and at the same time provide a living wage for tens of thousands of hard working New Yorkers,” Seereiter said.
In making today’s announcement, the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition was joined by former Assemblymen Harvey Weisenberg, a Long Island Democrat, and former U.S. Representative and Assembly Minority Leader Tom Reynolds of Western New York. Both have sons with developmental disabilities and have been long-time passionate advocates for people with developmental disabilities. Weisenberg is founder of the Harvey and Ellen Weisenberg Foundation, which advocates for people with special needs. While in Congress, Reynolds was instrumental in helping to create the Thomas Reynolds Center for Special Education at Daemen College.
Former Assemblyman Weisenberg said: “For half a century – since God gave Ellen and me our special child, our angel – we, and now I, have been on a mission to advocate for children and families with special needs. People with special needs deserve dignity, respect and a safe environment with trained professionals to help and support these amazing New Yorkers alongside their families. The current crisis with staffing is becoming even more critical. Insufficient funding for DSP salaries is exacerbating vacancy rates, turnover and overtime costs, and most of all I worry about how it will affect the people being cared for. This can be easily fixed and I am hopeful that Governor Cuomo will show his leadership and be a true hero for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and their families.”
Former Minority Leader Reynolds said: “New York has long been a national leader in its care and support of people with developmental disabilities. We need to help the Governor and State Legislature understand that while raising the minimum wage was the first step for improving wages, the second part of the job is to help provider agencies – which depend on government for 90 percent of their funding, and 80 percent of their budget goes directly to wages for staff who serve New Yorkers with developmental disabilities – pay their staffs a living wage. If the state doesn't increase funding it is New Yorkers with developmental disabilities who will directly suffer because of shrinking programs, services and support. The Governor and Legislature must finish the job to protect and support our most vulnerable citizens.”
Today’s news conference was held in the state Capitol amid an exhibit extolling New York’s leading role in creating the minimum wage and wage fairness in the United States. The exhibit includes this quote from FDR: “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of a decent living.” (1933, Statement on National Recovery Act)
The exhibit also quotes Gov. Mario Cuomo’s “New York Idea,” in which government uses the proceeds of economic growth “so that we can take care of those who will never be able to care for themselves.”
“We hope New York today will read these words and see that more work is needed to achieve the vision of these great leaders," said Ann Hardiman, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies. “That’s why we have been across this state, here today and in more places in the coming months. FDR and Mario Cuomo were right.”
Over the last eight months, the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition has held rallies and other events across the state to educate the public about the looming crisis created by rising costs, the lack of funding support, new federal overtime rules, recruiting and retention difficulty in an economy with lower unemployment, and growing competition from other employers, like big box stores, that are raising wages across the board.
Steven Kroll, Executive Director of NYSARC, said: “Recent legislation to raise the minimum wage is not enough. For those that earn a few cents above the new minimum wage (between $9.70 and $11.00 on 12/31/16, depending on the region of the State) there is no help coming. The new minimum wage, if funded by the State, will bring some employees up to the bare minimum, but there is no increase for most of our staff and certainly no pathway to a living wage.”
Two weeks ago the Coalition launched a digital billboard in Times Square engaging the public in its campaign. The billboard can be seen on the #bFair2DirecCare Facebook page here.
More than 90 percent of the funding that sustains these organizations comes from government, and 80 percent of that goes directly to wages for staff who care for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, including autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome.
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 government to increase the rates they provide for the delivery of these critical services to New York’s most vulnerable citizens.
Seth Stein, Executive Director, Alliance of Long Island Agencies, said: “The New York State developmental disabilities service system working in communities across New York State is considered a national model. Yet today the looming wage crisis threatens our organizations and the availability of services to the people we support.”
Richard Bosch, Interim Executive Director of the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, said: “We support living wages for our employees but our hands are tied by the state funding formula. We provide services on behalf of the state and the state sets our rates. The state needs to step up or else people will lose their jobs, potentially putting at risk those who need our support.”
Susan Constantino, President and CEO of Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, said: “Direct Support Professionals, special education teaching assistants and other support staff such as cooks and drivers and are not being paid a living wage. Statewide starting salaries average between $9.62 and $10.78. The jobs are complex and challenging and the pay is low. These hard working New Yorkers deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
Steve Holmes, Administrator of the-Self Advocacy Association of New York State, said: “Direct Support Professionals are the multi skilled individuals in each agency with a deep sense of responsibility and the genuine desire to help people live, work and thrive in our communities. It's up to all of us to make sure that DSPs are paid a living wage so they too can thrive.”
Rhonda Frederick, President of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, said: “As a parent of a child with development disabilities, Tom Reynolds knows the challenging times our system of care is facing. He and other parents face it regularly. We applaud him for advocating for the #bFair2DirectCare campaign. We support New Yorkers with autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities on behalf of the state. Government controls our funding. The staffing crisis we’re facing can be addressed only if Albany steps up and provides the resources we all need to best care for the people who need us.”
Three weeks ago, Governor Cuomo vetoed legislation that was designed to identify the causes of high vacancy and turnover rates of direct care professionals (DSPs) who work in these not-for-profit agencies.
In his veto message, Governor Cuomo said, “it is undisputed that DSPs provide essential services.” He further discussed identifying additional steps “the State can take to ensure that DSPs can continue to provide such valuable services.”
According to a 2016 Vacancy and Turnover Survey recently provided by the coalition to the Governor’s Office and the 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 20 percent turnover rate in these important jobs – a significant increase in both vacancies and turnover in just the last year.
As the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition has demonstrated over the last several months, 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.
Members of the #bFair2DirectCare coalition 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 Service Providers of New York State (DSPNYS); The InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies (IAC); The NYS Association of Community and Residential Agencies (NYSACRA); NYSARC Inc.; New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA); Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS)