The WNY Developmentally Disabled Community is ramping up efforts to fight for more state funding. Advocates were hoping Governor Andrew Cuomo would allocate increased funding in his proposed 2017 budget, but groups that work with the developmentally disabled say that has not happened - again.
"Very angry. Very frustrated and perplexed," said Barbara Delong, a local woman whose 25-year-old daughter has multiple disabilities.
According to Kevin Horrigan, co-chairman for a coalition called "bFair2DirectCare," New York State has failed to provide cost of living increases to agencies that hire direct care workers for eight of the past nine years.
There are approximately 120,000 direct care workers in NYS that help the developmentally disabled on a daily basis.
Families that rely on direct support professionals are feeling the negative effect because lack of increased funding is impacting the number and quality of direct care workers that non-profit agencies can hire.
Direct care workers are individuals who help the developmentally disabled perform daily tasks. However, since many direct support workers can get higher paying jobs elsewhere, it is causing frequent turnover of staff which confuses developmentally disabled individuals.
Lack of increased funding also means agencies are operating with smaller staff and that is limiting program offerings for the developmentally disabled.
"There are moms and dads that have their kids, or adults, at home. They can't get into a day program or group home because we can't recruit workers because of the pay disparity," added Horrigan.
Advocates were calling for Cuomo to allocate $45 million so direct support professionals could be paid a living wage. Some organizations say pay is so low that many full-time direct care workers still qualify for food stamps.
The Developmental Disability Alliance of WNY (DDAWNY) is now asking people to contact the governor's office so he can increase the funding request and become a "hero to all of the people we serve and their families."
All concerned individuals are being asked to contact the governor's office this week because the first deadline for the governor to submit a budget amendment is February 7th.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his reports, including a report from November 2016 when a large rally on the issue was held at the Buffalo Science Museum.
More information about the effort to contact the governor's office is available through the following: