NYS Legislature, Governor Agree To Make Initial Investment in Disability Provider Workforce
In what turned out to be a celebration of direct support professionals yesterday in the State Capitol, Governor Cuomo and the leaders of both Houses, along with the mental hygiene committee chairs, promised a group of bFair2DirectCare demonstrators that they all support the addition of funds to increase direct care salaries. The Governor said he would not sign a budget that didn’t include $55 million for direct care providers. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein and members of the Senate Republican Conference including Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan were unified in their support and all commented on the effectiveness of the campaign and the unanimity it evoked among legislators. The Governor noted that this funding would come on top of the increase provided to bring workers up to the minimum wage, with a total 6.5% wage increase occurring over two years. (Video of Governor Cuomo Delivering Remarks at #bFair2DirectCare Rally)
The announcement was made as participants in the bFair2Direct Care coalition (of which DDAWNY and NYSARC are partners), held an event at the State Capitol today, where we expected the announcement that the State Budget will include funding to make a first step towards providing a living wage for workers in our field. This event is the culmination of many months of work by DDAWNY, NYSARC and other organizations across the State working to get funding to mitigate one of the key issues, salary, contributing to the disability field’s recruitment and retention issues.
The announcement from the Legislative Leaders and the Governor comes as a result of the more than year-long, statewide bFair2DirectCare advocacy campaign. Staff, self-advocates, board members, families and volunteers from across the state have worked hard to make their representatives in Albany understand the desperate need for this funding. State Senator Frederick Akshar called the campaign, “the greatest grass roots effort I’ve ever witnessed.”
While there is no guarantee of the precise details until the budget is passed, today’s announcement essentially ensures the budget will include a 3.25% increase in salaries for 100 and 200 code employees effective, January 1, 2018, with another increase of 3.25% for 100, 200, and 300 code employees effective 4/1/18. These increases are in line with the $45 million per year State share, $90 million annually, that was part of the living wage proposal so strongly advocated for by the participants of the bFair2DirectCare campaign. (The $55 million State investment announced by the Governor reflects the expansion of the investment to cover OMH and OASAS programs as well for the same group of employees.)
We will share additional details on what is in the budget once it has passed, but with the announcement today, it certainly is good news and a long time in coming.
Thank you to all who participated by making phone calls, sending emails and/or personal letters and postcards, sharing social media posts, making office visits, or in some other way contributed to the success of this campaign.