Our advocacy efforts have been making an impact! As a result of meeting with us and Schenectady ARC, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco sent a letter to Governor Cuomo telling him to ‘Act Now to Prevent a Crisis for New York’s Developmentally Disabled.’ He was then featured on Time Warner Cable Channel 9 on November 23rd— http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/capital-tonight-show/2015/11/24/capital-tonight-full-show-112315.html
In addition, the Assemblyman had an Op-ed piece in the Times Union today. You can read it below. It appears he is trying to keep this alive in the media! We will be keeping you informed regarding our #1 legislative issue. Please continue to read and support these efforts!
Boost pay for ARC employees
By Jim Tedisco, Commentary
Published 5:43 pm, Monday, December 21, 2015
As we approach the New Year, many of us in state government are turning our thoughts toward next year’s state budget and spending priorities. Those spending priorities should begin with protecting our most vulnerable citizens.
Currently, New York’s ARCs and those agencies that care for 60,000 developmentally disabled individuals are facing enormous pressure to recruit and retain qualified employees.
The 48 community-based ARC nonprofit agencies employ 29,000 workers. Funding for the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities that supports our ARCs has been relatively flat the past few years.
Two years ago, the governor tried to cut $90 million in state funding for the OPWDD, which would have had a devastating effect on the ability to care for the developmentally disabled. That same budget contained hundreds of millions of dollars in tax giveaways to Hollywood studios to film in New York.
I and many colleagues, especially former Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, were able to make the case with the administration of the importance of the services provided by our ARCs and successfully restored the funds.
While the crisis for our developmentally disabled population was delayed, it looms now as a serious situation that could have long-term consequences for this vulnerable population. The people who work with our developmentally disabled residents should have integrity, skills, compassion and perhaps, most importantly, they should have experience.
Individuals who are faced with these challenges and need services do not react well with inconsistences in their care. The clients of our ARCs need consistency, and the best way to ensure we have that is to pay competitive wages to attract good talent.
Entry level positions at our ARCs pay between $9 and $13 an hour for jobs that require tremendous responsibility. Scores of positions at our Capital Region ARCs go unfilled as many applicants choose to take fast food or retail jobs. This is a seldom talked about consequence of the food service industry minimum wage increase.
The decision by the state Wage Board to mandate a $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers is already having a chilling effect on the ability of ARCs to recruit and retain a skilled and talented workforce to care for people with developmental disabilities.
We have some ARC staff already working at low wages upward of 100 hours a week and asking not to be promoted because of the burn out. That’s not good for the health and mental alertness of the employees and certainly not good for the safety of the clients.
In light of recent concerns about the alarming number of reports of abuse brought to the Justice Center, wouldn’t we want our state to ensure that we have the highest level of talent available to our loved ones who depend on consistency in their care?
That’s why I’m calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to prevent a staffing crisis by using some of the expected state budgetary windfall to increase services for clients and support for the professionals who directly care for them.
To recruit and retain hard-working and compassionate direct care workers, the state must give a higher level of support to those individuals.
If nothing is done, we could be faced with a disastrous staffing crisis in terms of having competent people in place to care for our most vulnerable citizens.
Our state should be placing at least as high a priority in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest individuals to care for our developmentally disabled citizens as it does in luring Hollywood studios to film in New York. Our loved ones deserve nothing less.