Two family-founded statewide organizations that support people with disabilities today urged legislators to include a 3% wage increase for direct support workers caring for people with developmental disabilities in the State budget. Marc Brandt, Executive Director of NYSARC, Inc., and Susan Constantino, President & CEO of Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS), joined together on behalf of the staff working in the organizations they represent.
"Our direct support staff provides the hands on care essential to the health, safety, inclusion and protection of our most vulnerable citizens, yet they are near the bottom of the wage scale and most have not received a wage increase in 4 years," said Mr. Brandt.
"With the establishment of the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, the Governor made protection of people with developmental disabilities a top priority," said Mr. Brandt. Yet the Governor's budget denies those who are the foundation of protecting people with developmental disabilities any wage increase for 4 years in a row."
"These workers must be highly trained, work long hours and perform extremely difficult work. They bear enormous responsibility for the lives of the people they care for," added Ms. Constantino. "The low wages make it increasingly difficult for non-profit agencies to recruit and retain those so critical to the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable citizens."
Brandt noted that direct support workers are paid a salary "which may not be much more than minimum wage forcing many to work more than one job. That puts them and their families under ever greater strain and can undermine their ability to care for the people with developmental disabilities who depend on them."
The issue is in the national spotlight. The President, NYC Mayor de Blasio and others, both Republicans and Democrats, have recognized the needs of low wage workers, their families and the people they serve.
The Governor has not included a wage increase for those who care for people with developmental disabilities since taking office. During that time they have seen their purchasing power eroded by over 8% once the impact of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the State is taken into account. That's a pay cut for those charged with protecting people with developmental disabilities.
A Cost of Living increase or COLA advanced by certain groups does not include direct support workers serving people with developmental disabilities.
"No funding for wages is wrong. It's unfair to the workers, their families and most importantly to people with developmental disabilities," Brandt added. "It undermines the State's promise to families, legislators and the federal government to fully include and protect people with developmental disabilities in New York State's communities," said Ms. Constantino.
NYSARC, Inc. is the nation's largest parent and family governed nonprofit agency serving people with developmental disabilities. CP of NYS is a statewide organization with Affiliates across the state employing 18,000 individuals supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families.