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Another Voice (Buffalo News): Albany Session Ends, Leaves Direct Support Providers Needing More

Last week legislators in Albany finished up this year's legislative session with critical

issues left unresolved. Specifically, they failed to address the pending staffing crisis

facing the non-profit human services agencies that support individuals with intellectual

and developmental disabilities.


At Empower, and in other non-profit human services agencies throughout the state,

caregivers called direct support providers are used to provide critical care to

intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. These men and women are

dedicated, compassionate, and critical care workers performing a crucially important

job. They care for our brothers and sisters, our family and friends - their tireless work

ensures some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities have the

opportunity to live life to the fullest.


Unfortunately, this work has gone woefully under-funded by the state for countless

years and we now face a looming staffing crisis as direct service providers leave this

sector to attain a more livable wage. To address this pending crisis, we lobbied

legislators and the Governor to include a 8.5% COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) in the

FY24 budget to provide needed salary increases to our workers - especially during a

historic inflation crisis. However, providers were left short with only a 4% COLA in the

enacted FY24 budget - this simply fails to meet the needs of our providers.


To address this shortage, Senator Mannion and Assemblywoman Seawright, Chairs of

their respective Senate and Assembly Committees on Disabilities/People with

Disabilities, introduced a piece of legislation (S4127/A5268) which would provide a

$4,000 increase to direct service providers, or an average hourly rate increase of $2.20.

This legislation would be pivotal in securing staffing levels and attracting new individuals

into the field. Yet, despite calls from agencies and direct supervisors - legislators in

Albany let this legislation stay in committee, failing to ever bring it for a full vote in front

of either body.


Inaction puts vulnerable populations at risk of losing critical services. Families risk losing

specialized care for their loved ones. And dedicated professionals will have to move or

leave the profession they love. This care is critical - if our legislators in Albany continue

to ignore our calls and kick this can down the road, our individuals with intellectual and

developmental disabilities relying on non-profit human services agencies will cease to

have their needs met, will lose opportunities to grow and thrive, and will be at risk of

suffering serious negative quality of life and health effects.


This is no longer a problem that can be addressed next year, or next session, or after

the next election. Legislators must get serious immediately or face the consequences of

being responsible for critical care services being taken away from thousands of

individuals.

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