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With April 10 State Budget Signing, Direct Support Pay Increase Finalized for 2018

April 19, 2017            

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Gov. Makes Good on Pledge to State’s 120,000-Strong Disability Support Community

On Sunday, April 10, as Hamaspik joined its constituent communities in gearing up for the Festival of Redemption, New York State’s disability support community passed over a longstanding hurdle as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the 2017-2018 state budget into law.

Among its several positive changes ushered in on Passover eve, the budget also finalizes a 6.5-percent pay increase for New York State’s 120,000-plus Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). 

That increase will unfold in two stages, with a 3.25-percent DSP salary increase taking effect Jan. 1, 2018, followed by the remaining 3.25-percent raise beginning April 1, 2018.

However, the increase doesn’t just benefit DSPs in the employ of New York State OPWDD-affiliated non-profits like Hamaspik—it also covers direct support staff working for programs under the auspices of the state’s OMH and OASAS government agencies, too.

These increases will help state-funded non-profits that specialize in the care of vulnerable New Yorkers not only recruit and retain employees, but continue to provide the same level of excellent care that have made them the backbone of New York’s developmentally disabled and behavioral health system,” read a statement from the Governor’s office.

The official 2017-18 State of New York Budget totals over $162 billion.

Some 35 percent of that—the budget’s single largest expense, over $57 billion—goes to the New York State Dept. of Health (DOH), which runs the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor.

The runner-up at just over $35 billion, education consumes 21 percent of the budget.

And in a display of just how sprawling the budget is, the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)—both with billion-dollar budgets—together comprise a paltry four percent. 

The 2017-18 budget allocates just over $7 billion for both, with OMH collecting nearly half of that funding and 41 percent ($2.93 billion) going to the OPWDD, which has long counted Hamaspik among its network of nearly 800 non-profit service providers.

The goal of the increases is “to help alleviate the recruitment and retention challenges of direct care staff, direct support professionals and clinical staff employed in eligible programs,” read the Governor’s statement.

The budget’s increased “investment” in public-sector jobs, like the DSP salary increase at the OPWDD and OMH, reflect Gov. Cuomo’s all-sector push for New Yorkers to earn more—and keep more of what they earn.

In the 2012 budget, for example, the Cuomo administration cut New York State’s middle-class ($40,000-$150,000) income tax from 6.85 percent to 6.45 percent—with a drop to 6.33 percent, towards the final goal of 5.5 percent by 2025, included in the current budget for Year 2018.

The new budget also furthers the two-percent cap on homeowner property taxes that counties may levy, providing further relief for a burdensome expense already among the nation’s highest.  It likewise significantly increases the New York State Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

“With this Budget, New York is once again leading the nation and showing what responsible government can achieve,” said Gov. Cuomo in a statement at the budget’s signing—“investing in the middle class, strengthening the economy and creating opportunity for all.”

Which now includes thousands of hardworking DSPs.