When actions don’t support words.
The NYS 2023-2024 Budget again fails to recognize the value of private agencies and their employees who provide services to individuals with disabilities and their families. This fiscal year NYS private providers had two requests of the Governor and Legislature.
First, a one-time $4,000 wage enhancement for the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who provide the services to the individuals with disabilities and their families. This was never introduced into any of the three legislative branch’s proposals. The average compensation of a DSP in upstate New York is less than $17/hour. This would have brought them to $19/hour, still $4/hour less than a NYS employed DSP is guaranteed. Our Governor and Legislature have approved a two-tier wage scale for the same work, yet private providers represent 85% of the total services delivered in NYS. How in 2023 can this be acceptable? It’s unconscionable that employees whose daily tasks often include assisting those in need with feeding, toileting, ambulating and social engagement are so undervalued by NYS. The DSPs come to work every day and eagerly befriend the individuals they support. The abundance of individuals and family members consider them an extension of their household.
The second ask was an 8.5% COLA in an attempt to keep up with inflationary costs. Keep in mind if the DSPs had received the wage enhancement and were provided an 8.5% COLA in addition, they still would be compensated almost $3,000/year less than their state employed counterparts. The Governor’s original proposal was a 2.5% COLA. Both the NYS Senate and Assembly included our 8.5% request. Yet we ended up with a 4% COLA, which makes it very clear our NEED was negotiated away. Privately employed DSPs will earn over $10,000 less this coming year for the same work and with an inferior benefit package as their state counterparts.
The 4% COLA expenditure represents $324.2 million of a $229 billion budget. It’s a fraction of a penny in terms of the overall budget. When Hollywood and a professional football team are given more priority than people taking care of a vulnerable population, the NYS priorities are misaligned.
Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone in our industry is surprised. It’s clear our Governor and Legislature know we have no leverage other than to continue to advocate for our employees and the individuals and families we serve. The system is one-sided. Let me explain.
Providers can only get paid if they provide a service. Seems fair and reasonable until you understand NYS, through the Department of Health and the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities determine what services are to be offered. They then determine how the provider will be reimbursed and the rate of compensation. Finally, they decide when they will reimburse the provider who has fronted all of the cash expenditures for the services. A simple business analogy is NYS creates the menu, sets the price, enjoys the meal and then determines when they want to pay. The restaurant owner has zero negotiating rights and receives nothing for late payment fees. While we are required to make payrolls and are asked to reimburse individual’s expenditures within 1-2 weeks we often wait 60-90 days to be reimbursed. The larger you are the more cash outlay you provide NYS interest free. That’s the model we work under.
They know we cannot go on strike. They know we can’t arrange a mass sick day. It’s against the law to abandon the vulnerable. Most importantly they know its against our morals, character, corporate ethics and mission. They rely on the fact that no matter how many challenges they throw our way we will overcome them. We are committed to those we serve.
In a $229 billion budget they could not find another $400 million for our industry? It’s pouring outside now. We don’t need $19 billion set aside. It’s beyond time NYS adequately funds private providers who are the backbone of service delivery so we can in turn pay our DSPs their worth. Until that time, we’ll continue to provide the best services possible to the individuals with disabilities and their families in need to enhance their lives. That’s what we do, and have done since 1966.
Ernest M. Dodge
JM Murray President/CEO