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Women of Human Services Non-Profits Letter to Governor: Women’s Equality Agenda must include funds for sector where 80% of workers are women

More than 2,000 signatures urge Governor to “act now” as a matter of gender equity

ALBANY – A letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed by some 2,000 women who work in New York State’s non-profit human services sector, released today, tells the Governor “we need you to act now” to properly fund their work with the homeless, people with disabilities and behavioral health needs and many other needs.

Specifically, the letter covers the Governor’s Executive Budget proposals that once again eliminate cost of living adjustment for non-profits, recommends changes to the landmark Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program that will disrupt the care that tens of thousands of people rely on each day, and fails to fund the next phase of a living wage increment for direct care workers.

The letter says, in part:

“Throughout your administration, you have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the causes of women. Your advocacy of equal pay and equal rights and elevation of women to the top levels of your cabinet – including not only the first-ever female Secretary to the Governor but also creation of New York’s first-ever Council on Women and Girls that your senior aide, Melissa DeRosa, chairs – shows your willingness to take action on issues of gender equity.“That brings us to an issue close to our hearts, not only as New Yorkers but also as women. We all work in the non-profit human services sector – as direct care workers, social workers, counselors, administrators, cooks, cleaners, drivers, and more. This sector includes agencies that support people with behavioral health and developmental disabilities, low-income senior citizens, victims of domestic violence, people without reliable access to food, those experiencing homelessness, and youth in foster care. 

“Fully 81% of the people who work at these non-profit human service agencies are women. That’s more than teaching. Despite the predominance of women in our field, your administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to adequate funding for our wages and for the human services organizations that keep us employed. While the average New Yorker earns $67,500 annually, the average human services worker in New York earns only $27,800; our sector is an important place to start in your work of achieving equal pay.’

“We admire your dedication to women’s equality. Please extend that dedication to the women of the human services field. We need you to act now.”

Click here to access the full letter and list of signatures.

Ellen Pendegar, CEO Mental Health Association in Ulster County and Board Chair of the Mental Health Association in New York State, said: “The dedicated human services sector protects and supports our most vulnerable New Yorkers every day. Yet this workforce, consisting of over 80 percent women, have not had a cost of living increase in over a decade. Governor Cuomo has been a leader in the cause of both women’s rights and the community workforce. By supporting a 2.9 percent COLA, the Governor continues to pave the way as a national leader in the women’s agenda and in support of New York’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Rhonda Frederick, President, Developmental Disabilities Alliance of WNY (DDAWNY) and a leader of #bFair2DirectCare, said: “If the Governor wants to be true to women in this state, pay a living wage to the direct support professionals who are on the front lines. How wonderful of a statement it would be if the Governor backed up his Women’s Agenda and the idea of economic justice by paying a living wage to 70,000 female DSPs statewide. He controls their pay.”

Michelle Jackson, Deputy Executive Director of the Human Services Council, a co-lead of Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York, said: “The Governor has positioned himself as a champion of women, but it is difficult to reconcile his `Women’s Agenda’ with the reality that throughout his tenure, he has ignored the dismally low and stagnant salaries of human services workers, a workforce that is 80 percent women. Nonprofits across the state struggle to pay living wages to their staff because most rely heavily on government contracts, and the Governor has removed necessary cost-of-living increases from these contracts eight of his nine years in office. Any champion of women should be investing in and supporting the nonprofit sector, and we continue to be disappointed in the Governor’s decision to overlook women doing essential work for New York.”



  • Non-profits that support persons with developmental disabilities are seeking the next phase of a six-year ramp up to get direct care workers to a living wage. In 2017, Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature funded the first two phases. But Gov. Cuomo failed to include any funding in the new budget. Direct care workers are asking him to restore the funding so they can continue progress toward a living wage, which is approximately $15.50/hour upstate and roughly $17.80/hour in New York City. The wage increase will help end a staffing crisis that endangers the supports received by people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

  • Statutory language calls for a COLA for human service non-profits. The Executive Budget once again deleted the language, as it has for numerous years. Gov. Cuomo funded a COLA only one time in his tenure and it was for roughly 0.2%, which amounted to approximately $50 a year in a human service workers’ paycheck.
  • Gov. Cuomo’s annual deletions of he COLA requirement has cost the entire non-profit human services sector $700 million in funding, which could have gone to worker salaries and benefits, infrastructure improvements, and more.

Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP)

  • CDPAP is a Statewide Medicaid program that provides eligible recipients, often with physical disabilities, the ability to direct their own care as an alternative way to receive home care services. The consumer is empowered to hire and supervise their own caregiver(s) for their service needs, and work with a Fiscal Intermediary (FI) for assistance with all the attendant responsibilities of being the employer, as well as other supports to make to program optimally work for them. All counties, and now all mainstream Managed Care and Managed Long-Term Care plans, are required to have a CDPAP program and notify “eligible individuals” of the option to join. 
  • Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposes to save $150 million by slashing the FI reimbursement, and severely restricting who can operate as FIs. This may reduce consumer access to their FI by as much as 90%.  It is very doubtful that the consumers will be able to react to the FI market disruption caused by this proposal without impacting their services, and possibly their ability to continue to use CDPAP.

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