Unprecedented Coalition Supports Minimum Wage, Calls for State Funding

For immediate Release

Contact:
Bryan O’Malley, 518-813-9537  
Jennifer Burner Barden, 646-676-4486

Unprecedented coalition supports minimum wage, calls for State funding

An unprecedented group of health, behavioral health, developmental disability providers, in addition to human services agencies throughout the state, today called on the Legislature to use recently identified additional revenues to help pay for the Governor’s proposed minimum wage increase for the Medicaid and human service agencies that rely on state assistance to provide services critical to all New Yorkers. These groups, listed at the end of this release, support the wage increase, but stress the importance of investment in funding to support it. Last week, the Assembly and Senate agreed that there was an additional half a billion dollars in state revenue, which this group argues should be used to pay for this increase.

The groups argued that the Governor’s minimum wage proposal was critical to being able to recruit and retain a high quality workforce. Funding to pay for the increase, as well as a plan to maintain that funding, is the responsibility of the State and must be supported to ensure the sector government relies on to meet a variety of human needs throughout the state, can continue to provide the jobs and services critical to success.

The health and human service industries are the driving force behind our economy. The day care centers and after-school programs let parents work, knowing that their children are safe. Hospitals serve as economic engines for our communities while protecting its health and providing critical services when people most need them. Home care, developmental disability, and behavioral health providers aid our parents, children and loved ones, allowing them to live fulfilling lives in the community. Since this workforce is almost completely funded by the State, it is the responsibility of the State to fund the increase, just as they have for direct State employees and SUNY workers.

“New Yorkers rely on the services we deliver. Whether for themselves, their children, their parents or their loved ones, New York’s health care providers and human service providers are providing the services that make our State function. We are as critical to the operation of New York on a day-to-day basis as its roads and bridges. The Governor and Legislature must recognize that without investing in this human infrastructure, it too will crumble,” said Bryan O’Malley, Executive Director of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State.

Toni Lasicki, Executive Director of the Association for Community Living said, “The Association for Community Living supports workers making a living wage. However, any increase to the wage must include increases in state contracts that reflect the change so providers of behavioral health services can compensate workers and remain competitive in attracting and retaining a competent workforce to serve some of the most compromised New York citizens.”

Jennifer March, Executive Director of the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York, said, “Increasing New York State’s minimum wage to $15 is a component of addressing poverty throughout the State. New York’s children and families are relying on the Governor and the Legislature to include a phased-in minimum wage that is fully funded for non-profits with state contracts and those reimbursed by Medicaid in the upcoming State Budget. Without the funding to support the increased minimum wage, these programs providing vital services to New Yorkers would likely need to curtail their services, lay-off staff, increase caseloads, and/or shut their doors.”

“People with disabilities rely on personal attendants every day to help us eat, bathe, go to work, and live our lives,” said Bruce Darling, CEO of the Center for Disability Rights. “Agencies that provide consumer directed personal attendants have had level or reduced reimbursements and increased overhead costs for years. Without an increase in funding to match the minimum wage increase, you’re not looking at more workers, you’re looking at fewer agencies. Fewer agencies means people with disabilities, especially in rural areas, will be forced into institutions, away from our families, in violation of our civil right to live in the community.”

“There are 870,000 workers in NYS in the broad human services sector who work directly under government-funded contracts or provide services reimbursed by Medicaid funding. Many work for nonprofits providing essential public services and are effectively indirect government workers. Nearly half of this workforce – 420,000 workers (predominantly women and people of color) – benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” said Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “To ensure continued quality service delivery, it is essential that government funding be increased so that these workers benefit from the minimum wage increase.”

“The human services sector is an extension of the government in providing essential government services to promote the well-being of all New Yorkers. We applaud the Governor for his support of a higher minimum wage in NY and urge the legislature to make a $15 minimum wage a reality. Even without a statewide policy change the Governor has the power to ensure the over 800,000 workers who deliver human services on the government’s behalf earn a living wage by increasing government payment rates to ensure higher wages for this workforce. Absent a statewide policy change, this would be a solid step forward in achieving higher wages for a large number of low-income workers. The Governor has taken great first steps to increase the minimum wage for State and SUNY workers. The same approach must be taken for human services workers across New York. We support the enactment of a $15 minimum wage policy and state investment in wage increases and spillover funding for human services workers,” said Allison Sesso of the Human Services Council of New York.

“With the enormous changes happening in mental health services in New York State, there is, more than ever, a great need for a sophisticated and professional workforce. Without state funding to support increases in the minimum wage for mental health staff, the ability to recruit and retain a quality workforce will be greatly hindered,” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State.

“We have all come together today to urge the Governor and state lawmakers to ensure that NYS nonprofits can properly serve those we support by allowing us to attract and retain a quality workforce,” said Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

“In the children’s behavioral health field, the workforce is the most essential component of the consistent, positive work needed with individual children,” said Andrea Smyth, Executive Director of the NYS Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health. “For children affected by trauma and unable to develop relationships, our workforce is the ones who make a child feel valued, supported and capable of developing resiliency. It is difficult to put value on the consistency of a supportive adult in a child’s life, but today we are willing to say that the minimum value should be $15 per hour,” said Smyth.

“HCP and its members agree that home care workers deserve to be paid more,” said Claudia J. Hammar, President of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers (HCP). “Home care workers are at the heart of delivering high quality and compassionate care to tens of thousands of elderly, chronically ill, and disabled New Yorkers across the State. But with an industry that is primarily funded by Medicaid, it comes down to simple math: if government reimbursements do not keep up with our costs, we cannot continue to provide these services. If the Governor and Legislature want home care to remain a viable option for New Yorkers in the future, they have a responsibility to ensure that the State pays its full share of the increase.”

“As organizations that have long advocated for increased funding to pay wages to individuals who provide direct supports to people with disabilities, we are very pleased to see the debate about an increased minimum wage come to the forefront here in NYS.  It is hard to argue that individuals who provide direct supports to other human beings – especially individuals with challenging needs – are currently paid wages commensurate with their responsibilities (e.g. assistance with eating, toileting, and bathing; communication; administration of medications; support in jobs and in the community),” said Michael Seereiter, President/CEO of the New York State Rehabilitation Association.  “However, without requisite funding increases to pay direct support workers wages competitive to other sectors, like fast food, and comply with an increased minimum wage, these non-profit organizations will be unable to pay any increased minimum wage or compete for qualified workers.  Much more seriously, vulnerable individuals and their families that rely upon these services for supports in day-to-day living will be hurt as many organizations begin to fail, unable to compete and hire staff to provide these necessary supports.”

“There are significant gaps in services based on a shortage of needed home care workers that allow a senior in need of assistance to remain in their own homes. This is true for Medicaid and EISEP, the Office for the Aging’s in home support for older residents with income above Medicaid limits. An increase in the minimum wage, and a funding source for human services agencies that deliver services through a state funding stream, is critically important to prevent or delay institutionalization. Additionally, an increase in minimum wage will have a positive later effect on the worker’s quality of life in retirement, by the resulting increase in pay used to calculate their own Social Security benefit. The time to act is now.” Maria Alvarez, Executive Director, New York Statewide Senior Action Council.

The organizations were statewide groups as well as individual providers, including the Association for Community Living, Center for Disability Rights, Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York, Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Fiscal Policy Institute, Human Services Council, Mental Health Association of New York State, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, New York State Association of Health Care Providers, New York State Coalition for Children’s Behavioral Health, New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, New York State Rehabilitation Association, New York Statewide Senior Action Council, and the Women’s City Club of New York. All of these groups, and the programs they offer or represent, rely significantly or entirely on state Medicaid or human service funds to operate. The groups support a minimum wage of $15 per hour, but are very concerned that without additional funding from the state they will face unintended consequences, including interrupted service delivery, scaled up case loads, and in some cases closed their doors all together. Some of these groups had previously come together under the banner of #15andFunding.

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