Good morning everyone,
By now, most of you have heard that we had a great day at our Capitol in Albany. After receiving calls from the Governor’s office and DOB on Monday night, the BFair Coalition were provided with details on an agreement being struck between the legislature and the Governor regarding our budget ask. In the call, they were looking for our support should they announce this deal. Our 9 member BFair Coalition agreed after hearing the details of the proposal.
Utilizing essentially the same methodology for the 2-2% COLA for direct care positions implemented a couple of years ago, the deal would provide the DD sector with a 3.25% increase effective 1/1/18 for all titles in the 100 and 200 CFR series. In addition, a second 3.25% increase effective 4/1/18 would be given for all titles in the 100, 200 and 300 CFR series. The commitment is that these resources would come from new dollars (not from service expansion resources identified in the Governor’s proposed budget, nor from existing service dollars) – in significant part funded through a 2 year deferral of the COLA, and apparently some utilization of resources that would otherwise have gone to the mental hygiene table ($4M). DOB is calling the value of these increases roughly equivalent to our $45M request, for each year. (The Governor said it was a $55M increase in his address, but we will clarify). The DD sector investment is but one of the sectors included in this agreement, mental health and substance use disorders being the others; they would receive equitable treatment under this agreement.
Yesterday, nearly 500 people came to Albany from all over our State, from Buffalo to Plattsburgh, New York City to Long Island, to raise their voices in support of our DSPs. Our Rally was scheduled from Noon to 1 PM. The War Room quickly started to fill with hundreds of people, occasioning comments from some of the staff that we were exceeding the room’s capacity. All forms of press and media were present including local radio and TV news outlets as it became possible that the Governor may wish to visit the assembled crowd. Moments before the Rally was to begin, the Governor summoned us to his office and provided the details of what would be his recognition of the work of the DSPs. He wanted to make the announcement himself.
After the Rally started, and as the emcee I was able, with little effort I must say, to capture the enthusiasm of a great crowd in time for the Governor to make his appearance and take credit for his efforts to agree to the deal with the Legislature mentioned above. In essence, the Governor and the Legislature have agreed in principle and method, and we will now await the budget’s completion.
Following the Governor, so many of our legislative leaders, Speaker Heastie, Senator Klein, Senator Flanagan, Assembly member Gunther and many of our legislative champions from around the State and from both sides of the aisle came to the microphone and addressed the enthusiastic crowd with their support for the increases.
Later parents, family members, Self-Advocates and DSPs also came to raise their voices in support.
This Rally, billed as a Ring of Care initiated as a call for action and support for our elected officials to act and very quickly became a triumphant celebration as the both branches of government came to the conclusion we knew and hoped for all along… our direct care workforce, our Everyday Heroes are not minimum wage workers!
So much can be said and concluded about this day and all that led up to it.
A not too exhaustive list would begin with:
- This is great, but we still struggle. Our COLAs are needed and the argument will need to be carried further if the infrastructure of our provider agencies are to survive for the long term. We are not done.
- There is still a very wary eye on Washington DC and all that is being contemplated on Medicaid’s future despite last Friday’s stay of execution. The Governor, the legislators, all of us must be vigilant and keep our eyes on the DC legislators’ and Executive’s actions.
- Advocacy works! Our concerted actions as a group of 9 organizations with the common cause of our workforce made a difference. Our ability to work together was terrific, but as a diverse State with diverse viewpoints within our own provider network, it can get tough as we talk details. However, the best hope for our future, from wages to managed care to sufficiency of funds and development is with a unified message.
- Our teachers and schools need this kind of campaign and commitment. We need to be looking at the lessons from BFair and applications to address the crisis in our schools.
I hear there is sufficient video from the event which we will send to everyone.
Thanks to all who made this trip, but to all who have been there from our strategy sessions to our rallies, meetings with our legislators in the districts, Lobby Days, E-mail, Twitter and Facebook messaging and all the work involved, this is a team victory.
Let’s enjoy for a little bit but get back at it.
It was a great day!