Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther Helps Secure Deal for Pay Raises for Direct Support Professionals

When it comes to caring for our loved ones, it’s important to hire the very best and most talented professionals. Direct Support Professionals, who dedicate their lives to helping people with developmental disabilities, mobility limitations and other demanding healthcare needs, are critical to our communities.

However, in recent years, these hardworking support professionals have struggled to earn the wages they deserve. On Tuesday, an agreement was struck between the Assembly, Senate, and Governor to raise their wages in this year’s budget. If this funding is included, Direct Support Professionals can expect a 6.5% pay increase over the next two years.

“Direct care workers deserve to be paid a wage that matches their skills and dedication,” said

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-I-WF Forestburgh), chair of the Assembly Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee. “The Governor’s pledge represents a victory, not just for our community’s Direct Support Professionals, but for the people they serve, too.”

In 2015, nonprofit agencies surveyed by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities indicated that they were having trouble attracting and retaining employees. Nearly one in four Direct Support Professionals who began employment at the agencies did not return for a second year, and vacancy rates exceeded 9 percent.

Understaffing and high turnover meant remaining employees were overworked – the agencies surveyed paid for 6,442,594 hours of overtime in 2015, an increase of 13.5 percent from the previous year.

“Agencies can only recruit and retain staff when the state provides the resources for them to pay a respectable wage,” Assemblywoman Gunther said. “I’m proud to see us moving in the right direction, and I will continue to fight for DSPs to receive the compensation and respect they deserve.”

Every day, Ric Schwartz, Executive Director of SullivanArc, and Patrick Dollard, President and

CEO of The Center for Discovery, see the impact that Direct Support Professionals have on the community.

“We appreciate the Governor’s acknowledgement of this worthwhile cause,” Schwartz said. “We especially want to thank our state representative, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, for all of her hard work and for her long-standing commitment to bring fair wages to those who support people with developmental disabilities.”

“It is gratifying to know that the leadership in both the New York State Senate and Assembly have given their wholehearted support to increase the salaries of our direct support professionals; with special thanks to our Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther for her tenacity in helping to get this done,” said Patrick H. Dollard, President and CEO at The Center for Discovery. “I’m also pleased to hear that Governor Cuomo said he would not sign a budget that didn’t include $55 million for these critically important staff members. Our direct support professional staff perform demanding, difficult and delicate work every day of the year. They deserve a living wage.