Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined legislators and hundreds of direct care advocates, workers, and the patients they care for to announce the inclusion of $55 million in the state budget to provide wage increases for professionals caring for New York’s developmentally disabled.
Direct care workers and direct support professionals help developmentally disabled New Yorkers in their daily lives by administering medicine and assisting with mobility. Most direct care workers work long hours due to staffing gaps, as low wages have turned people away from the profession.
Although the state minimum wage increased last year to $15 an hour, direct care professionals’ wages have remained stagnant. They have not seen an increase in their wages from Medicaid funding in nine years.
Gov. Cuomo shared his admiration for those in the profession, and said the “unintended consequence” of the increased minimum wage will be “made right this year.”
“Last year Buffalo had seven feet of snow. There were direct care workers who were trapped in residences for four days, with no relief and away from their families. I stopped in to visit them, and I can’t tell you how impressed I was with their energy, spirit and dedication,” Cuomo said. “What you do, you don’t do for money, you can only do for love.”
According to the Governor, his current proposal for the budget includes $55 million for direct care workers; $10 million more than advocacy groups like the #bfair2DirectCare coalition were calling for. The funding will bring workers up to minimum wage and give them a 3.25 percent raise in 2017 and again in 2018, for a total 6.5 percent raise over two years. Workers currently making the minimum wage will also see a 6.5 percent wage raise over the next two years.
For longtime direct care advocates such as Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, the announcement was well received.
“It’s an overwhelming day for me,” said Gunther, a registered nurse. “After four years of hard work, we finally made it. You finally made it. I want to thank each and every agency for sticking together, for the families of DSPs, for the people that DSPs take care of.”
The funding is part of budget proposals that will be negotiated this week before the budget due date of April 1. “I am speaking to my colleagues in the legislature about the proposal. I’m optimistic that they will accept it,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo stressed how hard he will fight for the funding in budget negotiations.
“I can tell you this; this hand will not sign a budget unless there’s $55 million for direct care.”