For almost a year, disability advocates have been repeating a simple but critically important message: that New York State needs to provide funding so that the people who support individuals with disabilities can earn a living wage.
Months of hard work, rallies, protests, letters to the editor, media interviews, and publicity paid off March 28 when Governor Andrew Cuomo and the leaders of New York State’s Senate and Assembly announced that they had agreed to put $55 million toward increasing the wages of Direct Support Professionals working at so-called voluntary service providers, such as The Resource Center.
The state-wide advocacy effort was called #bFair2DirectCare. The campaign, which sought $45 million to increase DSP wages, earned bipartisan support in the Senate and Assembly. Governor Cuomo had remained silent on the issue until March 28, when at a rally at the State Capitol – attended by hundreds of people with disabilities, family members and DSP – he announced that agreement had been reached on the $55 million in funding.
The agreement calls for a 3.25 percent wage increase that takes effect January 1, 2018, followed by another 3.25 percent increase on April 1, 2018.
The increased funding for DSP wages was deemed critical in order to enable DSPs – who provide hands-on support to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities – to earn a living wage. After New York State increased its minimum wage last year, disability service providers complained that they were facing tremendous difficulty hiring and retaining staff. Properly caring for people with disabilities can be demanding work with an incredible level of responsibility, and service providers were experiencing high levels of staff turnover and vacancies because people could earn just as much money at less demanding jobs, such as working in the fast-food industry.
The #bFair@DirectCare campaign was a collaboration among several advocacy groups across New York State. Thousands of people supported the initiative in some way. And the #bFair2DirectCare campaign was so successful that it helped with efforts to obtain a similar wage increase for workers who support people challenged by mental illness and substance abuse.
The Resource Center thanks everyone who took time to advocate in support of the #bFair2DirectCare campaign. We also extend our gratitude to Governor Cuomo, the Senate and the Assembly for agreeing to provide money to give workers the wage increase they deserve.