As Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to unveil his 2017-18 budget, about 100 advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities gathered at the Arnot Mall to send the governor a message – be fair to direct care.
Representatives from the Arcs of Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben, including direct support professionals (DSPs), self-advocates, and parents of people with disabilities rallied at the Arnot Mall Thursday in support of increased pay for DSPs, who work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on a daily basis.
Arc representatives were joined by State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, and Assemblymen Chris Friend, R-Big Flats, and Phil Palmesano, R-Corning. All three legislators had previously expressed their support for additional funds in the 2017-18 budget for human-services agencies like Arcs that provide services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their support included signed letters to the governor.
“Direct support professionals are the heart and soul of these organizations,” Palmesano said. “The work you do is truly God’s work. You need to light the governor’s switchboard like a Christmas tree. We are talking about the most vulnerable members of society.”
Arcs across New York State have joined with other human-service agencies in the #BeFair2DirectCare campaign, asking the governor to include an additional $45 million per year in the next six budgets to offset the impact the increase in minimum wage will have on agencies that rely on government funding.
“Our system faces a work-force crisis, the likes of which we’ve never seen,” said Bernie Burns, executive director of the Arc of Steuben. “The system is in chaos, perhaps even on the verge of collapsing. When it fails, who will take care of the people developmental disabilities? $45 million is a small amount of money, but we need it. It’s the right thing to do.”
Jeannette Frank, executive director for the Arc of Schuyler, implored the governor to hear the pleas of his constituents.
“Governor Cuomo, we know that you know that New York needs a trained and skilled workforce to provide the highly individualized help and support people with disabilities need to stay healthy and have a meaningful life,” Frank said. “But nonprofits that hire and train staff to support people with disabilities can not keep up with New York’s minimum wage increases without a revenue adjustment from the state. We need $45 million in this year’s budget to avert a looming staffing crisis.”
Those attending the rally were asked to contact Governor Cuomo to express their support for increased funding for direct support professionals by signing letters and postcards that will be sent to the governor. They were also asked to urge their friends, family members, and colleagues to contact the governor.
“We need to make sure we get the governor’s attention to put $45 million in his budget,” said Mike Doherty, executive director of The Arc of Chemung. “We need to continue to fight for this. If it is not in the budget coming out, then it needs to be put into the 30 day amendment.”
O’Mara said supporters should not stop at one letter or phone call.
“This is an issue I’m committed to fight for,” O’Mara said. “Write letters, send emails, and make phone calls. I urge you to do all three as soon as possible.”
The governor is expected to release his preliminary budget in the next two weeks. It will be followed by negotiations between Cuomo and the legislature that will result in a final budget for fiscal year 2017-18. The state budget deadline is April 1.
Perhaps the most moving testimony came from Marie Dean. Dean had lived in one of The Arc of Chemung’s residences, but through her own hard work and the mentoring of direct support professionals, Dean not only gained her independence by getting her own apartment in the community, but also by being hired as a direct support professional by The Arc of Chemung.
“(Direct support professionals) do not give up on people with disabilities, no matter what,” Dean said. “Without these people, I wouldn’t be on my own. They have made a huge impact by caring, and being our friends, and helping us learn that we can be independent and our differences don’t mean anything.”
Supporters who wish to contact the governor can email gov.cuomo(at)chamber.state.ny.us.
They can also show their support by calling (518) 474-8390 or by writing to The Honorable Andrew H. Cuomo, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, 12224.
The Arc of Schuyler received two grants from NYSARC Trust Services for a total of $27,500 in 2016 to support recreation and guardianship services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A $12,500 grant designated to enhance recreation opportunities was used for the construction of a backyard recreation area at one of the residences operated by The Arc of Schuyler. The new recreation space includes a deck and large cement pad to improve accessibility of the yard for residents to entertain friends and family. The space will be used for cookouts other outdoor activities and is large enough for placement of a basketball hoop, picnic table and outdoor swing. The recreation grant will also be used to purchase portable lift equipment to make it more comfortable for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs to travel for overnight leisure trips.
A $15,000 grant will assist The Arc in administering guardianship services for four people through the NYSARC, Inc. Corporate Guardianship Program. The program provides supports to people who need help and advocacy but do not have family members to assist them with understanding their health care decision making, access to services, or rights options. A volunteer guardianship committee gets to know each person and considers how they express their personal wishes, preferences, and beliefs in order to help them with decision making, keeping their best interest in mind. The Arc of Schuyler also serves as alternate standby guardianship for three people, where the agency has been designated by the person’s legal guardian to step in as advocate in the event they can no longer fulfill this role. Members of The Arc of Schuyler’s Guardianship Committee are Betsy Hoffmeier, Paty Kelly, Joyce McKinney, Tom Ruda, and Barbara Specchio with Karen Petrie, RN at The Arc of Schuyler serving as Guardianship Services Coordinator.
The Arc of Schuyler is a not for profit organization providing supports and services to more than 200 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in the Schuyler County area. The organization is a chapter of the state agency, NYSARC, Inc. and an affiliate of The Arc of the United States.
The Arc of Schuyler is registered with AmazonSmile, a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no additional cost to you. Amazon donates .5% of eligible AmazonSmile purchases to charitable organizations selected by you, the customer.
To support The Arc of Schuyler through Amazon, go to www.amazonsmile.com sign into your personal Amazon account, search for "The Arc of Schuyler", then click the select button to make us your preferred charitable organization. You will now see "Supporting: The Arc of Schuyler" under the item search bar. The Arc will remain your default charitable organization unless you make a change to a different organization. You must search for items and make purchases through amazonsmile.com in order for donations to be made on eligible purchases.
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The Arc of Schuyler is partnering with The Arc of Chemung (Elmira) and The Arc of Steuben (Bath/Corning) to host a rally to demonstrate support for increased funding from New York State to provide a living wage for direct support professionals. Direct support professionals are the core of the system of supports for 130,000 people in New York State who require long-term services. New York State intends to raise the minimum wage, but has yet to provide funding in the State Budget to provide a living wage for these valuable workers who provide direct care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The rally will take place on Thursday, January 12 at 10:00 AM at the Arnot Mall's Community Room, located on the second floor, at the end of the first hallway past Regal Cinemas. Parents, family members, direct support professionals, board members, volunteers, and anyone with a heart for this issue are encouraged to attend. Attendees will have the opportunity to contribute to a mass mailing including postcards, personal letters, and photos taken at the event. Your presence will demonstrate your belief in the value of direct support professionals and the important work they do. The more we stand together, the stronger our voice.
If you would like to contribute to the effort, but are not able to join us at the rally, there are other ways to add your voice. Share your story or your support by mailing a personal letter to NYS Gov. Cuomo's office. Your voice matters. If you have any questions about this event or how to help, please contact Director of Community Relations, Holly Baker at 607.535.6934.
The Arc of Schuyler, Arc of Chemung, and Arc of Steuben are members of NYSARC, Inc., New York State's largest not-for-profit organization supporting people with developmental and other disabilities and their families. The 47 operating chapters comprising NYSARC support and serve people with developmental disabilities. With more than 110,000 members, the organization supports approximately 60,000 individuals and employes close to 30,000 people.
Fans of the HGTV “Home Makeover” series are familiar with the excitement a family experiences leaving their home for a short time while construction crews complete an interior redesign to create a beautiful new space modified for the family’s comfort and enjoyment. That’s just the thrill that people living at The Arc of Schuyler- owned residence in Montour Falls will experience this January.
Through the support of the NYS Office for People with Development Disabilities and monies raised through fundraising efforts, the Canal Street home where 12 residents live, will be converted from shared bedrooms to single bedrooms, giving people added privacy and comfort in a space they can call their own.
“It has been part of our long range plan that our homes have private bedrooms,” Executive Director, Jeannette Frank said. “Eighty-percent of our residential options will have single bedrooms when this project is complete.”
Residents will enjoy a 4-week retreat at Watson Homestead in Painted Post during the remodel. “The team at Watson Homestead has been wonderful to work with in preparing for this project. The people we support and the direct support professionals who assist them are looking forward to the changes at Canal Street and in the meantime, people will definitely enjoy all that Watson Homestead has to offer,” Frank said.
Construction work is being completed by Elmira Structures, Inc. of Elmira, NY with design by Long & Associates Architects of Buffalo.
The Arc of Schuyler provides 24/7 supports for people with moderate to severe developmental disabilities, including autism, many of whom need medical and/or behavioral supports. Person-centered services are provided with family involvement encouraged to the extent possible.
As the holiday season comes to an end, The Arc of Schuyler would like to express our thanks to the many generous businesses, organizations, and individuals who help made this a wonderful Christmas for people who receive services at The Arc and their families. The Watkins-Montour Rotary Club continues to sponsor an annual holiday party at the Montour Moose Lodge – an event where people with disabilities, their friends, and families enjoy time together with food, friendship, and music donated by A Walk on the Wildside Entertainment. St. Mary’s of the Lake parishioners generously donated gifts to nearly 50 people who reside at Arc homes. Supporters who donate to The Arc also helped provide gifts that inspire joy and gratitude, and students from Odessa-Montour High School volunteered their time to package and wrap presents for Christmas morning. While many of the people we support are fortunate to be able to spend time with their families during the holiday, many others do not have that opportunity. The compassion and philanthropy of our big-hearted Schuyler County community has an incredible impact on the lives of people we support, showing how much they are cared about and reminding us all that Schuyler County is a great place to live. Thank you all for being a friend to The Arc and supporting a community of inclusion and kindness.
Michael E. Stamp
President, Arc of Schuyler Board of Directors
Local lawmakers met Wednesday with officials with from the Arcs of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Yates counties to discuss concerns about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2017-18 Executive Budget and the need for a living wage for direct support professionals who work directly with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Assemblymen Chris Friend, R-Big Flats, Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, and State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, acknowledged the challenges that agencies will face when the state’s minimum wage increases at the end of this year.
Direct support workers are highly skilled, highly trained professionals who support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Increasingly, people who provide direct support are leaving this line of work as organizations that provide services are no longer able to offer competitive compensation.
Arc chapters must comply with the minimum wage increase that will go into effect at the end of the year. Because they receive the majority of their funding from the state, however, these organizations are facing
massive budget shortfalls unless state funding is increased in the 2017-18 budget. Without state funding, this mandated wage increase could impact the ability of Arc chapters to provide programs and services in the future.
“This is not something that’s surprised us,” O’Mara said. “It’s going to have a big impact on agencies like the Arc. We’re here to try to work together on a strategy to help make up for what is going to be a major impact. Service provider agencies have very tight budgets as it is. This is going to exacerbate the staffing issues that already exist.”
O’Mara, Friend, and Palmesano said they supported the Arc chapters’ efforts to increase funding, starting with the 2017-18 budget.
“The impact of the unfunded minimum wage increase on agencies that serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers, those with developmental disabilities, is one of the most important issues we’re facing,” Palmesano said. “If we are not making sure the quality of life and quality of care for developmentally disabled people is addressed, then we’re failing the tax payers and failing New York. We have to make every effort to make sure we’re addressing this need.”
Arc officials said they will continue to create awareness for this issue as the budget process moves forward. A letter-writing campaign to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a #bfair2directcare social media campaign, and a rally planned for early January are among the efforts to draw attention to the need for increased funding for direct support professional pay.
“This needs to be a priority,” Palmesano said. “There’s no greater service than providing care to improve the quality of life for our most vulnerable citizens, people with developmental disabilities. For me this needs to be the top priority before we address anything else.”
The Arcs of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties are members of NYSARC, Inc., New York State’s largest not-for-profit organization supporting people with developmental and other disabilities and their families. The 47 operating chapters comprising NYSARC support and serve people with developmental disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and neurological impairments, in every county in the state.
With more than 110,000 members, the organization supports approximately 60,000 individuals and employs close to 30,000 people.
Photo (Top): Assemblyman Chris Friend, left, Senator Tom O’Mara, Arc of Schuyler Executive Director Jeannette Frank, Arc of Chemung Executive Director Michael Doherty, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Arc of Yates Chief of Staff Mary Mansfield, and Arc of Steuben Executive Director Bernie Burns met to discuss the need for increased funding from the state to cover wage increases for direct support professionals
Photo (Bottom): Senator O'Mara and Nancy Thomas, Arc board member and parent.
Christy Pandozzi is embarking on a new career in food service at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls. Your support of vocational training and other services provided through The Arc has helped Christy achieve her career goals and she wants to tell you her story.
“I’ll be working in the kitchen preparing food for the Office for the Aging Home Delivered Meals service and Silver Spoon Café,” Christy said about her new role. “I’m really excited about what I will learn. It makes me feel good that I’ll be cooking for and helping other people in our community.”
Christy is thankful to the people and for the services that helped her reach her goals.
“I learned a lot in my training at Glen Industries and The Arc - how to process different foods, measure ingredients, how to cook safely, and how to keep the kitchen clean. I also learned a lot from my community support staff person, Sharon. She’s taught me how to plan meals, shop for healthy foods, cook at my home, and budget my money.”
Christy is also a frequent public transit rider. “I’ve used Schuyler County Transit for years to get to work and I’ll be able to use it every day to get to my new job too.”
Her outstanding work ethic and positivity has made Christy a role model for many. “Lots of people who also want help to work in the community come to me with questions. I tell them to keep working hard, learn all you can at The Arc, be patient, and ask for help. The people and all of the opportunities available at The Arc helped me and they’ll help you achieve your goals too.”
Your contributions make it possible for The Arc to provide the vocational training, community supports, transportation, and other meaningful opportunities assisting Christy and others in your community.
Your holiday gift to The Arc will have a powerful impact on people with developmental disabilities and their families. You can make your tax-deductible gift today by clicking DONATE NOW.
The Arc of Schuyler advocates on local, state, and national levels for continuity of services, rights, and inclusion of people with disabilities through our parent organization, NYSARC, Inc., and as an affiliate of The Arc of the United States.
Thank you for your continued commitment to supporting family members, neighbors, and friends with disabilities. Thank you for giving a voice to The Arc’s cause. Thank you for your generosity!
Photo Below: Christy with her team of co-workers and support staff at Glen Industries.