Hundreds of concerned self-advocates, parents, professionals, legislators, and more rallied to support the #BFair2DirectCare initiative in Brooklyn on Friday, February 3rd. Held at St. Francis College, the rally delivered a strong message to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Assembly and the State Senate–it’s time to pay direct support professionals a fair living wage for their incredibly dedicated and difficult work.

About #bFair2DirectCare

Last year, New York State approved an increase in the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour, to be phased in over the next three years. They did not, however, provide requisite funding in the budget for service providers to afford the rise in pay. Additionally, DSP salaries were not provided with an adequate raise, meaning many employees in the field of disabilities services will soon be earning the same as others in less-demanding and less-skilled jobs outside of the human services field.

Yet again, in the governor’s recently released 2017-18 budget, no further funds were provided to raise DSP salaries. Without immediate action from the governor or the legislature, this will lead to a crisis in staff recruitment and retention efforts for all service providers.

In response, the #BFair2DirectCare Coalition was formed. The group consists of the Alliance of Long Island AgenciesCerebral Palsy Associations of New York State; Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York; the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies; NYSARC, Inc.; NYSACRA; and the New York State Rehabilitation Association. These service providers have banded together to urge Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to support this critical endeavor.

“Angels on Earth”

Numerous legislators spoke about the importance of direct care workers in their districts and vowed to support the #BFair2DirectCare movement.

Direct support professionals are our angels on earth,Senator Martin J. Golden of Brooklyn said. “They are the unsung heroes who we implicitly trust with our vulnerable loved ones. They have the passion to help those who require assistance with love, and love what they do. This is not a job; it is a calling.

Senator Jesse Hamilton echoed his borough colleague, saying “Direct care workers are some of the hardest workers in the state. Those who are in desperate need of care are getting less and less care. You are qualified workers who deserve a qualified wage.

Without our staff, we can’t have a program,Douglas Dawkins, a self-advocate receiving services at Brooklyn Employment and Business Services, succinctly said. “That’s why [self-advocates] go up to Albany, we take this so seriously. We try and reason with the legislators.

Next Steps

The #bFair2DirectCare Coalition is continuing their lobbying efforts throughout the month of February. The governor will release 21-day and 30-day budget amendments, and we are hoping that the requested $45 million to cover DSP salary increases is included in one of these budget phases.

This proposal has received broad bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate. Governor Cuomo, we hope you realize that it’s time to #bFair2DirectCare!