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Addressing the Proposed NYS 2024 Budget

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By Marisa Geitner

We enter the state budget year with the same central goal as the last; to continue elevating the experience of our care professionals. Last year, our agency budget factored in the wage increase for our direct support professionals, which was raised for most full-time residential direct support staff to $17.25 an hour. This was a bold decision, but one that needed to be made as people should not have to sacrifice their own wellbeing when choosing a career to support the wellbeing of others.

To continue elevating the direct support professional experience, the work we do in our own budget must be matched by the state budget. In the 2023 state budget, Governor Kathy Hochul astutely recognized the growing challenges facing our industry with staffing and wage inequality. A 5.4% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was applied to human services workers, making it more possible for frontline professionals to receive wages that allowed for improved self-sufficiency. Given the HCS investment and the COLA investment we have seen a significant improvement in our staffing.  Our program vacancies, measured in full time equivalents, decreased by 41% between August 2022 and now (figure does not include mid-level management).

The 2024 budget is a chance to strike while the iron is hot; to make even larger strides towards providing for our workforce. What we need are three things:

  • An 8.5% COLA: Our funding must keep pace with inflation. Last year’s increase was a good first step, but it was the first adjustment in many years. We must continue to trend up and keep pace with today’s cost of living.
  • Investment in Direct Support Professional Sustainability: Continuous investment in the education of and upward mobility for frontline care professionals will ensure career growth and long-term careers for frontline professionals.
  • Establishment of Direct Support Wage Enhancement (DSWE): DSWE would ensure care providers would receive annual funding of $4,000 per direct support staff member, enhancing their hourly rate of pay.

We must act now to ensure these inclusions in the 2024 NYS budget.

Now is the time to speak up and make clear that our industry needs a robust and well-compensated workforce. We are at a critical point in history, where we can determine the quality of care for the next generation and beyond.

Advocacy groups have already made their demands known with demonstrations in Albany and throughout the state. We invite you to join in as well.

Contact your local assemblyman or state senator, and alert them of what our industry needs. Follow advocacy organizations such as NYDA, NYAII and NADSP on social media to learn about how you can make a difference. You can find more resources here: https://opwdd.ny.gov/types-services/advocacy.

The more voices, the louder our message.