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Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo commits to $55M in budget to boost direct care wages

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By Matthew Hamilton | Mar, 28, 2017

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders touted on Tuesday efforts to provide additional funding in the final state budget for non-profits that provide direct care services. The funding would help them increase wages in an effort to boost worker retention rates.

Cuomo said he would not sign a budget that does not include $55 million for direct care providers.

The Assembly and Senate had been pushing for a $45 million increase over the executive’s proposal for non-profits. There have been signals that some sort of agreement was at hand, but Tuesday’s announcement — which the governor made alongside Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein and members of the Senate Republican Conference (Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan appeared a short time later) — marked the first official deal of the budget season.

Asked about the differences in proposals after he addressed the crowd, Flanagan said “maybe it was the spur of the moment that gave the governor additional largesse.”

“$55 million — I’m sure we can get there, we have to keep it within our spending program for the state, the financial plan,” he said.

Cuomo said the $55 million would boost wages for those below the minimum wage and provide a 3.25 percent salary increase for those employees this year. The funding allows for another 3.25 percent increase next year.
Those making above the minimum wage also would see a total 6.5 percent wage increase over two years with that funding approved in the state spending plan.

Cuomo and legislative leaders are continuing to negotiate other major points of the budget, which must be completed by April 1.
“What you do you don’t do for money, you can only do for love,” Cuomo told a crowd of direct support advocates, workers and beneficiaries in the state Capitol’s War Room at midday.

Cuomo said he remained proud of scoring a deal in last year’s budget to begin increasing the minimum wage to $15 but it had unintended consequences that included jamming up direct care providers who face funding issues when it comes to boosting wages for workers. Providers have said not only have they faced the loss of employees because other industries, notably fast food, offer easier work for similar or better pay, but they also have faced wage compression issues for higher-paid staff.

“Each and every one of you, each and every day does God’s work,” Klein told the group. “… It’s only natural that you get a living wage.”

Flanagan said the funding shouldn’t be a battle.

“This should be easy,” he said.

Heastie said that some things in government are no brainers.

“And being fair to direct care is a no brainer,” he said.