As Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to unveil his 2017-18 budget, about 100 advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities gathered at the Arnot Mall to send the governor a message – be fair to direct care.
Representatives from the Arcs of Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben, including direct support professionals (DSPs), self-advocates, and parents of people with disabilities rallied at the Arnot Mall Thursday in support of increased pay for DSPs, who work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on a daily basis.
Arc representatives were joined by State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, and Assemblymen Chris Friend, R-Big Flats, and Phil Palmesano, R-Corning. All three legislators had previously expressed their support for additional funds in the 2017-18 budget for human-services agencies like Arcs that provide services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their support included signed letters to the governor.
“Direct support professionals are the heart and soul of these organizations,” Palmesano said. “The work you do is truly God’s work. You need to light the governor’s switchboard like a Christmas tree. We are talking about the most vulnerable members of society.”
Arcs across New York State have joined with other human-service agencies in the #BeFair2DirectCare campaign, asking the governor to include an additional $45 million per year in the next six budgets to offset the impact the increase in minimum wage will have on agencies that rely on government funding.
“Our system faces a work-force crisis, the likes of which we’ve never seen,” said Bernie Burns, executive director of the Arc of Steuben. “The system is in chaos, perhaps even on the verge of collapsing. When it fails, who will take care of the people developmental disabilities? $45 million is a small amount of money, but we need it. It’s the right thing to do.”
Jeannette Frank, executive director for the Arc of Schuyler, implored the governor to hear the pleas of his constituents.
“Governor Cuomo, we know that you know that New York needs a trained and skilled workforce to provide the highly individualized help and support people with disabilities need to stay healthy and have a meaningful life,” Frank said. “But nonprofits that hire and train staff to support people with disabilities can not keep up with New York’s minimum wage increases without a revenue adjustment from the state. We need $45 million in this year’s budget to avert a looming staffing crisis.”
Those attending the rally were asked to contact Governor Cuomo to express their support for increased funding for direct support professionals by signing letters and postcards that will be sent to the governor. They were also asked to urge their friends, family members, and colleagues to contact the governor.
“We need to make sure we get the governor’s attention to put $45 million in his budget,” said Mike Doherty, executive director of The Arc of Chemung. “We need to continue to fight for this. If it is not in the budget coming out, then it needs to be put into the 30 day amendment.”
O’Mara said supporters should not stop at one letter or phone call.
“This is an issue I’m committed to fight for,” O’Mara said. “Write letters, send emails, and make phone calls. I urge you to do all three as soon as possible.”
The governor is expected to release his preliminary budget in the next two weeks. It will be followed by negotiations between Cuomo and the legislature that will result in a final budget for fiscal year 2017-18. The state budget deadline is April 1.
Perhaps the most moving testimony came from Marie Dean. Dean had lived in one of The Arc of Chemung’s residences, but through her own hard work and the mentoring of direct support professionals, Dean not only gained her independence by getting her own apartment in the community, but also by being hired as a direct support professional by The Arc of Chemung.
“(Direct support professionals) do not give up on people with disabilities, no matter what,” Dean said. “Without these people, I wouldn’t be on my own. They have made a huge impact by caring, and being our friends, and helping us learn that we can be independent and our differences don’t mean anything.”
Supporters who wish to contact the governor can email gov.cuomo(at)chamber.state.ny.us.
They can also show their support by calling (518) 474-8390 or by writing to The Honorable Andrew H. Cuomo, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, 12224.
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Feb. 1 Update - On January 31, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Bureau of Program Certification completed their required inspection of construction work completed at our Canal St. Intermediate Care Facility in Montour Falls. We are on schedule for people to move back to their “new” home on Friday, February 3. The 10 single bedrooms look new and fresh and new flooring throughout the house eliminates some door thresholds making wheelchair maneuvering easier. The Arc is thankful to Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and our generous donors for providing funding needed to make this renovation a reality. This was truly a community effort with many thanks in order. Watson Homestead, Corning Catering, Elmira Structures and William Long Associates were great community partners who made this project go smoothly. We also recognize this was an all hands on deck venture for staff from all departments who helped out while residents were “on retreat”. Thank you everyone!
Original Article: Fans of the HGTV “Home Makeover” series are familiar with the excitement a family experiences leaving their home for a short time while construction crews complete an interior redesign to create a beautiful new space modified for the family’s comfort and enjoyment. That’s just the thrill that people living at The Arc of Schuyler- owned residence in Montour Falls will experience this January.
Through the support of the NYS Office for People with Development Disabilities and monies raised through fundraising efforts, the Canal Street home where 12 residents live, will be converted from shared bedrooms to single bedrooms, giving people added privacy and comfort in a space they can call their own.
“It has been part of our long range plan that our homes have private bedrooms,” Executive Director, Jeannette Frank said. “Eighty-percent of our residential options will have single bedrooms when this project is complete.”
Residents will enjoy a 4-week retreat at Watson Homestead in Painted Post during the remodel. “The team at Watson Homestead has been wonderful to work with in preparing for this project. The people we support and the direct support professionals who assist them are looking forward to the changes at Canal Street and in the meantime, people will definitely enjoy all that Watson Homestead has to offer,” Frank said.
Construction work is being completed by Elmira Structures, Inc. of Elmira, NY with design by Long & Associates Architects of Buffalo.
The Arc of Schuyler provides 24/7 supports for people with moderate to severe developmental disabilities, including autism, many of whom need medical and/or behavioral supports. Person-centered services are provided with family involvement encouraged to the extent possible.
As the holiday season comes to an end, The Arc of Schuyler would like to express our thanks to the many generous businesses, organizations, and individuals who help made this a wonderful Christmas for people who receive services at The Arc and their families. The Watkins-Montour Rotary Club continues to sponsor an annual holiday party at the Montour Moose Lodge – an event where people with disabilities, their friends, and families enjoy time together with food, friendship, and music donated by A Walk on the Wildside Entertainment. St. Mary’s of the Lake parishioners generously donated gifts to nearly 50 people who reside at Arc homes. Supporters who donate to The Arc also helped provide gifts that inspire joy and gratitude, and students from Odessa-Montour High School volunteered their time to package and wrap presents for Christmas morning. While many of the people we support are fortunate to be able to spend time with their families during the holiday, many others do not have that opportunity. The compassion and philanthropy of our big-hearted Schuyler County community has an incredible impact on the lives of people we support, showing how much they are cared about and reminding us all that Schuyler County is a great place to live. Thank you all for being a friend to The Arc and supporting a community of inclusion and kindness.
Michael E. Stamp
President, Arc of Schuyler Board of Directors
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.
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.