WXXI AM News

Statewide coalition: workers who support people with disabilities need better wage

Dec 16, 2016

A coalition of local and state advocates are asking Governor Cuomo to increase the state-regulated pay rate for workers who support people with disabilities. Family members, staff, and a bipartisan group of politicians gathered at the ARC of Monroe County to ask for a $45 million budget increase.

The coalition known as “#bFair2DirectCare” asserts that low pay creates a high worker turnover rate statewide, and especially in more rural areas.

Senator Joseph Robach pointed out that some fast food restaurants offer a higher wage than the state-regulated pay for workers supporting people with disabilities.

Standing room only at a "bFair2DirectCare" gathering held at the Arc of Monroe County.
Credit Karen Shakerdge

“I never want to put one group against the other but certainly, to me, people who work in human services are equally important if not more than people that work in fast food. We should at least have parity with that,” he said.

Robach, whose sister has a disability and is supported by the Arc of Monroe, spoke to a packed room about the importance of direct support professionals.

“I know firsthand not only what an important role and a difference you can make in somebody’s life as a direct service provider, but I also know that when somebody makes that bond [and] that person is forced to leave because of economics, it is very concerning and it makes a big difference,” he said.

The turnover rate statewide is 23 percent, and in Monroe County, 27 percent, said Barbara Wale, president and CEO of the Arc of Monroe County.

“On behalf of the Arc of Monroe County and all the non for profits supporting people with developmental disabilities, I call on the state legislature and governor Cuomo to approve a $45 million increase in the upcoming budget. It’s time to be fair to direct care,” Wale said.

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk