Direct Care Workers Must Be Compensated For Their Incredible Work, Care And Compassion

Direct Care employees are compassionate, hard-working people who provide a vital service to those with developmental disabilities. Caring for those who struggle to care for themselves is both a mental and physical challenge, and I am constantly impressed by the dedication of those who have chosen that field. It is wholly unacceptable that fast-food employees were unilaterally given a mandatory raise, yet caregivers who assist our most vulnerable population are struggling to make ends meet.  
 
I have actively supported the #bFair2DirectCare initiative, which calls for increased wages for Direct Care workers. I have written to the Governor and stood alongside colleagues from the Assembly and Senate to demand funding in the state budget. An additional $45 million can be made available without raising a single tax. After all, Albany provides hundreds of millions in tax credits to Hollywood billionaires. Direct Care workers have earned their fair share.
 
A COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE PUTS JOBS AT RISK
 
It is imperative we provide competitive wages to Direct Care workers to attract and retain qualified employees. There is no defensible reason why fast-food workers were singled out for a massive wage hike while those administering medicine and providing life-saving care were ignored.
 
Equality is a word that gets thrown around often in Albany. Yet, Direct Care workers are being forced to choose between continuing to provide care for others while financially struggling or taking a more lucrative fast-food job that requires no specialized skills. It is hard to argue that Direct Care workers are receiving fair and equitable treatment.
 
Their difficult work and responsibilities do not match their wages. The structural imbalance is driving professionals away and putting an already-strapped industry at a competitive disadvantage. In 2015 the one-year turnover rate was 23 percent for not-for-profit Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) provider agencies responsible for administering Direct Care programs. Without immediate action, the damage to the industry will become increasingly difficult to reverse. 
 
ADEQUATE FUNDING FOR OPWDD IS A MUST
 
The not-for-profit OPWDD provider agencies are primarily funded by the government. The Assembly Minority Conference has consistently fought to ensure they are adequately funded and was proud to advocate against proposed cuts that ultimately never materialized a few short years ago.
 
Without proper financial support, rising costs will suffocate the Direct Care industry. And, as mandatory phased-in wage increases finally do find their way to Direct Care workers, positions will have to be cut without increased funding. This will hurt the quality of care for those who rely on it day-in and day-out. I am calling on all legislators to demand our most vulnerable individuals have the highest level of care New York has to offer. That starts with proper funding.
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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