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Staffing Crisis Worsens at Non-Profits Serving  New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities


Steve Greenberg,  steve@greenbergpr.com, 518-469-9858
Bob Bellafiore, bob@stanhope-ny.com, 518-928-8471


Staffing Crisis Worsens at Non-Profits Serving  New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities

 One in Seven Direct Support Jobs Remains Vacant; 2017 Turnover Rate Rose to 27 Percent; DSPs Logged More than 10 Million Overtime Hours in 2017

 #bFair2DirectCare Urges Governor and Legislature to ‘Spin Up’ Funding to Help DSPs Reach Living Wage Sooner


ALBANY, NY – #bFair2DirectCare today released new data showing the staffing crisis at non-profits that support New Yorkers with developmental disabilities is getting even worse, as competition for their workers stiffens from retail, food service and big box stores.

New data for 2017 show:

  • 14.4 percent – or one in seven – of all direct support staff jobs were vacant, an increase of 30 percent since 2016 and up 80 percent since 2014, when the vacancy rate was 8 percent;
  • The staff turnover rate is 26.7 percent annually, an increase of eight percent since 2016 and up 42 percent since 2014, when the turnover rate was 19 percent;
  • One in ten direct support professionals leave the job after less than six months;
  • More than 10 million overtime hours were logged, an increase of eight percent since 2016 and up from 5.6 million hours, in 2014, an increase of 79 percent.


While #bFair2DirectCare is grateful that the Governor has funded the commitment made last year to include living wage funding for direct support professionals in his 2018-19 budget proposal, the unfortunate reality is that the living wage must be reached more quickly than 2022 in order to avert the crisis this campaign seeks to avoid.

In light of this severe and worsening staff crisis, #bFair2DirectCare has asked Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to “spin up” their commitment to living wage funding for direct support professionals (DSPs). Under the agreement reached as part of the 2017-18 state budget, DSPs would not receive a living wage until 2022. #bFair2DirectCare is asking the Governor and Legislature to speed that up to 2020, which requires action in the budget currently being decided.

“The non-profits supporting New Yorkers with developmental disabilities are facing a staffing crisis that is acute and worsening every day,” Thomas McAlvanah, Executive Director of the Inter Agency Council of NYC, said. “These are sobering numbers, not just for the agencies, but for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with developmental disabilities and their families who depend on us to be there providing these services.”

Rhonda Frederick, Board President of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, said: “Our need to replace staff keeps growing and our ability to pay these dedicated workers a living wage – or even a wage that is competitive with fast food restaurants and big box stores – is virtually impossible given that 90 percent of our budgets come from government. With staffing vacancies and turnovers, it’s not surprising that overtime costs are high and continuing to rise. Without direct and urgent help from Albany, this situation is not sustainable.”

Michael Seereiter, Executive Vice President & COO of the New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation, said: “We hear and are sensitive to the Governor’s message about the state’s fiscal condition. DSPs who make $12 an hour and our non-profits know how tough it is to make ends meet. But in the context of a $168 billion state budget, the funds we seek amount to a rounding error. It’s the right kind of investment for a Governor, a Senate and an Assembly that have shown time and again how to support persons who need it most.”

At issue is the funding the state provides non-profits that support people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Because of new wage mandates and higher wages offered by other businesses as well as New York state agencies, these non-profits struggle to recruit and retain direct care workers. Government funding levels have been too low to bring these workers anywhere near a living wage, calculated as roughly $17.72 downstate and $15.54 elsewhere.

New York State increasingly relied on non-profits to support persons with developmental disabilities in the aftermath of the Willowbrook scandal of the 1970s.

These non-profits provide services on behalf of state government so the state doesn’t need to. With tremendous bipartisan support from all parts of the state, the state budget passed last year included the first of six installments to raise DSPs to a living wage. The $55 million in first year funding was implemented on January 1.

Statewide, 73 percent of DSPs are women, 44 percent are black and nine percent are Latino.

The 2017 data released today reflect responses from 155 non-profit agencies, representing more than 80,000 employees.

Susan Constantino, President & CEO of Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, said: “Governor Cuomo, the Senate and the Assembly became our champions last year and delivered the first phases. Now we’re asking them to be champions again so that New York State will be the national model for supporting people with developmental disabilities.”

Seth Stein, Executive Director & General Counsel, The Alliance of Long Island Agencies (ALIA), said: “The #bFair2DirectCare coalition urges the Governor and Legislature to look past the numbers and see the people going unserved or underserved because rates paid to local not-for-profits have been far too low for far too long to provide fair pay for the workforce.”

Mark Van Voorst, Executive Director, The Arc of New York, said: “DSPs are not in this for the money but they do deserve a living wage. We hope Albany can deliver it to them sooner than 2022. That’s why #bFair2DirectCare is pushing to advance the funding sooner, so we can fill these vacancies and keep them filled with dedicated DSPs who no longer have to choose between a job they love and supporting their families.”

Arnold Ackerley of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) said: “#bFair2DirectCare has been clear all along that bringing DSPs to a living wage would take a multi-year effort. Not because the living wage is so high but because DSP wages, due to historically inadequate funding levels, have been and remain far behind where they should be.”

Jason Marlowe of the Direct Support Professionals Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS) said: “DSPs can earn more stocking shelves in Walmart or making French fries in a fast-food restaurant than they can doing a job they love, helping their fellow New Yorkers. Failure to provide the resources to pay DSPs a living wage will be a tragic mistake that reflects poorly on the priorities of New York’s leaders.”

# # #

About #bFair2DirectCare

#bFair2DirectCare gives voice to the more than 130,000 New Yorkers with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and who often cannot speak for themselves. #bFair2DirectCare is also the call to action to remind state leaders that direct care non-profit agency workers are agents of the state who need a fair rate of pay that is commensurate with their vital support responsibilities.

#bFair2DirectCare members include

Alliance of Long Island Agencies (ALIA)

Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS)

The Developmental Disability Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY)

Direct Support Professional Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS)

The InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies (IAC)

The New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation

(formerly two separate entities – the NYS Association of Community & Residential Agencies

and the New York State Rehabilitation Association)

The Arc of New York (formerly NYSARC)

Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS)

Facebook:      www.facebook.com/BFair2DirectCare
Twitter:          @Fair2DirectCare
Hashtag:        #bFair2DirectCare
Web site:        www.bFair2DirectCare.com