NEW YORK – Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch (R-Bainbridge) held a press conference last week, Feb. 7, with Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R-Canandaigua) and many of their Assembly Minority colleagues to present the Conference’s Task Force on Protecting the Rights of People with Developmental Disabilities Report, along with a number of bills they will be introducing.
Crouch, Chairman of the Task Force, and the Assembly Minority Conference have been strong advocates of the developmental disability community, restoring $90 million in aid to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities back in 2013, which was cut by Governor Cuomo and Assembly Democrats.
“We need to do all we can to protect society’s most vulnerable,” said Crouch. “This is about ensuring that they are equally funded, represented and cared for. Recent cuts in funding due to the state and federal governments’ interpretation of the Olmstead Decision have resulted in the loss of many jobs provided to the developmental disability community, with many companies having to cut staff or even close entirely.”
Crouch and members of the panel traveled all over the state, holding forums in 11 regions talking with direct care workers, family members, doctors and developmentally disabled individuals. Their findings have been put together into a comprehensive report known as C.A.R.E.S. (Championing Aid, Rights, Equality, and Services: a Report on the Olmstead Decision & Its Impact on the State’s Developmental Disability Community). Recommendations from their findings include (but not limited to): Requiring the Attorney General to reevaluate the state’s interpretation of the Olmstead Decision; Working with the federal government to prevent the state from losing funding as a result of the interpretation of the Olmstead Decision; Create post-schooling training programs for individuals with developmental disabilities to better prepare them for employment; Create incentives for sheltered workshops to hire individuals without developmental disabilities; Create a Bill of Rights for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities to outline in statute their rights; Fully fund the increase in minimum wage for direct care workers employed by non-profit providers; Create a commission to study and report on what wage levels would need to be in order to recruit and retain an adequate number of qualified direct care workers in the various regions of the state, with a special focus on making sure that staffing levels are adequate for the transition to integrated employment.
Crouch noted that New York State’s minimum wage is set to increase to $15 an hour in most parts of the state by 2021. The task force was concerned about the repercussions this could have on the developmental disability community’s direct care workforce.
“The recent New York State minimum wage hike ignores the fact direct care workers often work for non-profits, which are almost entirely funded by state and federal aid,” said Crouch. “This has caused concern because non-profits do not have the flexibility to raise wages like other industries, such as the fast-food industry. We fear we may be losing hard-working care workers to easier jobs in other industries, ultimately losing that compassionate, quality care.”