Local lawmakers met Wednesday with officials with from the Arcs of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Yates counties to discuss concerns about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2017-18 Executive Budget and the need for a living wage for direct support professionals who work directly with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Assemblymen Chris Friend, R-Big Flats, Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, and State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, acknowledged the challenges that agencies will face when the state’s minimum wage increases at the end of this year.
Direct support workers are highly skilled, highly trained professionals who support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Increasingly, people who provide direct support are leaving this line of work as organizations that provide services are no longer able to offer competitive compensation.
Arc chapters must comply with the minimum wage increase that will go into effect at the end of the year. Because they receive the majority of their funding from the state, however, these organizations are facing
massive budget shortfalls unless state funding is increased in the 2017-18 budget. Without state funding, this mandated wage increase could impact the ability of Arc chapters to provide programs and services in the future.
“This is not something that’s surprised us,” O’Mara said. “It’s going to have a big impact on agencies like the Arc. We’re here to try to work together on a strategy to help make up for what is going to be a major impact. Service provider agencies have very tight budgets as it is. This is going to exacerbate the staffing issues that already exist.”
O’Mara, Friend, and Palmesano said they supported the Arc chapters’ efforts to increase funding, starting with the 2017-18 budget.
“The impact of the unfunded minimum wage increase on agencies that serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers, those with developmental disabilities, is one of the most important issues we’re facing,” Palmesano said. “If we are not making sure the quality of life and quality of care for developmentally disabled people is addressed, then we’re failing the tax payers and failing New York. We have to make every effort to make sure we’re addressing this need.”
Arc officials said they will continue to create awareness for this issue as the budget process moves forward. A letter-writing campaign to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a #bfair2directcare social media campaign, and a rally planned for early January are among the efforts to draw attention to the need for increased funding for direct support professional pay.
“This needs to be a priority,” Palmesano said. “There’s no greater service than providing care to improve the quality of life for our most vulnerable citizens, people with developmental disabilities. For me this needs to be the top priority before we address anything else.”
The Arcs of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties are members of NYSARC, Inc., New York State’s largest not-for-profit organization supporting people with developmental and other disabilities and their families. The 47 operating chapters comprising NYSARC support and serve people with developmental disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and neurological impairments, in every county in the state.
With more than 110,000 members, the organization supports approximately 60,000 individuals and employs close to 30,000 people.
Photo (Top): Assemblyman Chris Friend, left, Senator Tom O’Mara, Arc of Schuyler Executive Director Jeannette Frank, Arc of Chemung Executive Director Michael Doherty, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Arc of Yates Chief of Staff Mary Mansfield, and Arc of Steuben Executive Director Bernie Burns met to discuss the need for increased funding from the state to cover wage increases for direct support professionals
Photo (Bottom): Senator O'Mara and Nancy Thomas, Arc board member and parent.
Christy Pandozzi is embarking on a new career in food service at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls. Your support of vocational training and other services provided through The Arc has helped Christy achieve her career goals and she wants to tell you her story.
“I’ll be working in the kitchen preparing food for the Office for the Aging Home Delivered Meals service and Silver Spoon Café,” Christy said about her new role. “I’m really excited about what I will learn. It makes me feel good that I’ll be cooking for and helping other people in our community.”
Christy is thankful to the people and for the services that helped her reach her goals.
“I learned a lot in my training at Glen Industries and The Arc - how to process different foods, measure ingredients, how to cook safely, and how to keep the kitchen clean. I also learned a lot from my community support staff person, Sharon. She’s taught me how to plan meals, shop for healthy foods, cook at my home, and budget my money.”
Christy is also a frequent public transit rider. “I’ve used Schuyler County Transit for years to get to work and I’ll be able to use it every day to get to my new job too.”
Her outstanding work ethic and positivity has made Christy a role model for many. “Lots of people who also want help to work in the community come to me with questions. I tell them to keep working hard, learn all you can at The Arc, be patient, and ask for help. The people and all of the opportunities available at The Arc helped me and they’ll help you achieve your goals too.”
Your contributions make it possible for The Arc to provide the vocational training, community supports, transportation, and other meaningful opportunities assisting Christy and others in your community.
Your holiday gift to The Arc will have a powerful impact on people with developmental disabilities and their families. You can make your tax-deductible gift today by clicking DONATE NOW.
The Arc of Schuyler advocates on local, state, and national levels for continuity of services, rights, and inclusion of people with disabilities through our parent organization, NYSARC, Inc., and as an affiliate of The Arc of the United States.
Thank you for your continued commitment to supporting family members, neighbors, and friends with disabilities. Thank you for giving a voice to The Arc’s cause. Thank you for your generosity!
Photo Below: Christy with her team of co-workers and support staff at Glen Industries.
Lace up your sneakers for the biggest running event in Watkins Glen, The Arc Grand Prix Run at Watkins Glen International. This 3.4 mile run/walk on the world famous road course returns for its fourth year on Saturday, April 8 during WGI’s Opening Weekend.
The annual Arc of Schuyler charity race has raised more than $30,000 since 2014 for the not for profit organization that provides supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since its inaugural event, the race has brought more than 2,000 participants from the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Allegany area, as well as out-of-state visitors.
Online registration for the race is now open at www.arcgrandprixrun.org. Early registration fees are $25 for adults and $10 for youth ages 5 – 12. Race organizers are encouraging participants to register early to guarantee their shirt size and avoid the $5 registration increase after March 11. The committee is also seeking volunteers. Volunteer registration is also online.
As in former years, Watkins Glen International Opening Weekend activities, including pace laps, will begin at 10:00 AM. Prizes are awarded to the top pledge raiser and to the team with most members. Race merchandise and add-ons inluding checkered socks, bumper stickers, and Drive The Glen passes are available for sale on the website. The Arc of Schuyler receives $15 of each $25 Drive the Glen pass sold through The Arc Grand Prix Run at WGI.
The Arc Grand Prix Run planning committee is now seeking business, club, and individual sponsors. Sponsors can receive promotion on the race shirt, signage at the event and race course, ceremony recognition, and advertisement on The Arc Grand Prix Run website, social media, and printed program. For sponsorship, registration or volunteer information, contact Director of Community Relations, Holly Baker at 607.535.6934.
The Friends of the Watkins Library, FOWL, was honored Oct. 13 with the Grass Roots Award, presented by the Southern Tier Library System.
The #bFair2Direct Care Coalition expresses its thanks to 15 state legislators and candidates for State Senate and State Assembly from Central New York, the Southern Tier and Northern New York for their support in ensuring direct service professionals receive a living wage for the outstanding work they do in caring for and supporting New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
In Central New York, the Southern Tier and the North Country, the #bFair2DirectCare Coaltiion recognized:
- Senator David Valesky – Incumbent – 53rd S.D.
- Pat Helmnig – Candidate – 54th S.D.
- Senator Thomas O’Mara – Incumbent – 58th S.D.
- Leslie Burke – Candidate – 58th S.D.
- Senator Michael Ranzenhofer – Incumbent – 61st S.D.
- Assemblyman Dan Stec – Incumbent – 114th A.D.
- Kevin Mulverhill – Candidate – 115th A.D.
- Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush – Incumbent – 117th A.D.
- Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi – Incumbent – 119th A.D.
- John Salka – Candidate – 121st A.D.
- Bill Batrowny – Candidate – 124th A.D.
- Assemblyman Gary Finch – Incumbent – 126th A.D.
- Vince Giordano – Candidate – 127th A.D.
- Assemblyman Brian Kolb – Incumbent – 131st A.D.
- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano – 132nd A.D.
These legislators and candidates are among more than 80 from across the state who have to date responded to a candidate survey sent by the Coalition. By doing so, these legislators and candidates demonstrated a commitment to the "300 Days to Better Pay" campaign, which is aimed at ensuring that direct support professionals receive an increase in salary to allow them to earn a living wage to provide for themselves and their families.
Susan Constantino, President and CEO of Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, said: “These legislators and candidates are true champions. They understand the amazing care and support provided by dedicated, trained, conscientious direct service providers for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. We cannot thank these legislators and candidates enough. We need champions like them in Albany fighting for our workers and for the people we serve and support.”
In his response to the survey, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, “It is imperative that the Executive include funding for these wages in the budget so these agencies can attract and maintain the best possible workforce.”
In his response to the survey, Assembly Minority Leader Kolb said, “The men and women who care for our most vulnerable provide invaluable services, and they deserve to be compensated accordingly. Their commitment to provide life-saving assistance to people with developmental disabilities is among the most needed and most noble of professions.”
Michael Seereiter, President & CEO of the New York State Rehabilitation Association, said: “From now until Election Day, the #bFair2DirectCare coalition will be conducting statewide voter participation education directed at people with disabilities, their families and our employees as part of the ‘300 Days to Better Pay’ campaign. Our goal is to ensure that voters know who supports these valued members of our community.”
As part of the “300 Days to Better Pay” campaign, the #bFair2DirectCare coalition is bringing attention to the potential crisis in community care for New Yorkers with autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
“The Governor and the State Legislature need to take action in the next state budget. A modest rate increase for the next five years will let us pay a competitive living wage so we can retain good workers. The alternative is more vital jobs remaining vacant as more worker leave, putting at risk the services we provide to these special and valued New Yorkers,” Seereiter said.
A 2016 report on DSP staffing performed by the #bFair2DirectCare coalition found member agencies statewide had a 9.3 percent vacancy rate and 23.1 percent one-year turnover rate. DSPs at not-for-profit provider agencies are 73 percent women, 42 percent African-American and nine percent Latino. To provide them with a living wage ($17.72 in NYC/LI and $15.54 across the rest of New York) would require a 2.3 percent rate increase in each of the next six years.
The Arc of the U.S. Chief Executive Officer, Peter Berns, visited The Arc of Schuyler on Monday, October 10 to learn more about the agency’s programs, services, and supports for people with developmental disabilities.
The Campaign for Fair Pay
The #bFair2DirectCare Coalition, including our parent organization, NYSARC, Inc. is conducting a series of inspiring events as part of a year-long workforce funding campaign called "300 Days to Better Pay." The workforce shortage facing NYSARC Chapters in New York State is getting worse and in many communities is now in crisis proportions. According to a 2016 Vacancy and Turnover Survey by the coalition, competition from other employers has increased to the point where coalition agencies responding to the survey now have an average 10 percent vacancy rate and more than a 20 percent turnover rate for Direct Support Professionals. The "300 Days to Better Pay" campaign is a statewide series of events to constantly repeat for legislators and the Governor that direct care not-for-profit agency workers need a fair rate of pay which is commensurate with their vital support responsibilities. The campaign's goal is to have the Governor and the Legislature approve appropriate budget funding for these dedicated professionals when the 2017-18 state budget is finalized April 1, 2017.
Be Ready to Vote
The last day to register to vote for this election is Friday, October 14th!
On Tuesday, November 8th, every seat in the New York State Legislature will be up for election. It is vital that each of us vote and consider the position of candidates on the issues that are important to us. Do the candidates in your community support increasing state budget funding to provide a living wage for Direct Support Professionals and other direct support employees? Will they fight for the funding to be included in the next state budget on April 1, 2017?
To assist you with determining the position of candidates, the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition and NYSARC have sent a questionnaire on increased state funding for our workforce to every candidate for State Legislature. We will post the finds findings on this website when available to help guide you on Election Day, but today, make sure you, your families, and friends are registered to vote on November 8th. You can find your local election information here.
You Can Help
As someone who cares about people with developmental disabilities, you are part of a community of more than 200,000 New Yorkers. If you feel that Direct Support Professionals deserve fair pay, please support the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition.
- You can use this Sample Letter to draft a personalized letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Share your own story as a direct support professional, how a direct support professional has had an impact on your family, or voice your opinion on the importance of paying these important workers a living wage.
- You can follow #bFair2DirectCare on social media. Like and share posts to build momentum of this campaign.
- Stay informed about the candidates' positions on this issue and vote on November 8th!
- Candidates' Fair Pay Positions Sought (Odessa File; Letter to the Editor from Arc of Schuyler Board President, Michael E. Stamp) - 9/12/16