In what turned out to be a celebration of direct support professionals today 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.
The announcement was made as CP of NYS, along with other participants in the bFair2Direct Care coalition, 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 Affiliates and other agencies 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.
“I want to thank the families and staff from our Affiliates, and other similar organizations across the state, for their dedication to this movement,” said Susan Constantino, President & CEO of Cerebral Associations of New York State. “I also want to offer my sincere thanks, on behalf of our entire organization, to the leadership in the Senate and Assembly for their unwavering support of our dedicated and highly professional staff, and to the Governor and his staff for their work with the Legislature on this critical issue.”
The announcement from the Legislative Leaders and the Governor comes as a result of the more than year-long, statewide bFair2DirectCare advocacy campaign conducted by CP of NYS and all the developmental disability associations. Staff, self-advocates, board members and volunteers from our 24 Affiliates 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 CP of NYS and the others working in 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.) Our Affiliates really stepped up their advocacy efforts over the past 9 months, and it is those efforts, along with those of other disability providers, families, and staff, who made this campaign a success. We will be sending 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.
This announcement marks the first two steps towards the goal of providing direct care and other low-wage workers in our field a living wage. The plan crafted by CP of NYS calls for an additional $45 million investment by New York State in each of the next five years.