Governor Cuomo’s plan to include $55M in state budget big win for direct care workers

TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Working with individuals who have developmental disabilities is what Samar Hamilton does on a regular basis in his job at a group home in the Town of Niagara.

“We help people with developmental disabilities with their daily lives, do stuff that they can’t do on their own,” said Samar Hamilton, Empower Direct Support Professional.

There’s 10 group homes through an agency called Empower in Niagara County.

“People love to do this work but in some cases people can’t afford to do this work because the wages they’re paid by us through our funding through the state has not kept up with costs,” said Jeff Paterson, Empower Chief Executive Officer.

But agencies are hopeful that will change, after Governor Cuomo announced he plans to include $55 million in the state budget for direct care workers. It follows months of advocacy through the #bFair2DirectCare campaign.

“Direct support professionals do very very challenging work. It’s not only physically challenging helping people meet their basic daily needs, but it’s also a very emotionally challenging job,” said Paterson.

“This job takes a lot of patience you have to be mentally prepared,” said Hamilton.

Empower Chief Executive Officer Jeff Paterson says the 2 years worth of pay increases will be good for workers, but the fight isn’t over yet.

“The reality is there’s more to do after those 2 years so we hope this is a down payment on a long range plan to put these positions in the sort of wage category that they deserve to be in,” said Paterson.

According to Governor Cuomo, the additional funding means a 3.25% pay increase will take effect as of January 1 2018, and another 3.25% increase will take effect April 1 2018, for a total combined 6.5% pay increase.

Lawmakers plan to pass the state budget by it’s deadline which is this Saturday, April 1st.

This is a statement sent to News 4 from People Inc. :

People Inc. President and CEO Rhonda Frederick said: “With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement, we are almost at the finish line while we await final passage of the NYS budget expected on or before April 1, 2017. People Inc. thanks family members, its staff, self-advocates and everyone who worked tirelessly on this effort. Also, a special recognition goes to the Western New York State Legislative Delegation for their leadership and ongoing support and Governor Cuomo for his leadership.”

The #bFair2DirectCare campaign is an example on how advocacy works. More than a year ago, direct support professionals (DSPs), individuals with developmental disabilities, family members and self-advocates banded together forming the #bFair2DirectCare campaign to educate members of the WNY State Legislative Delegation about the vital work of DSPs and to advocate for a living wage. On March 28, 2017, the effort culminated in a #bFair2DirectCare event at the New York state (NYS) Capitol, where it was announced by Governor Cuomo that funding to raise the wage of DSPs in the developmental disabilities field has been agreed to as part of this year’s NYS budget. People Inc. also views this announcement as a celebration of DSPs and their vital work.

The $55 million the Governor referenced is the state share (to be matched with federal Medicaid dollars, where applicable) of an investment in wages projected to take effect January 1, 2018. These resources would be given to DSPs, equaling a 3.25 percent increase. A second 3.25 percent increase is projected to be given to DSPs effective April 1, 2018. These funds will help to fund DSP wages and represents a two-year 6.5 percent commitment. It is an outstanding step toward the creation of the living wage #bFair2DirectCare supporters have sought to take effect over a period of six years.

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