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Advocates for disabled seek higher pay for caregivers

ALBANY — An early start to demonstrations seeking to influence Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget erupted Monday in a bipartisan push to increase state funding to nonprofit agencies so their caregivers can be paid the rising minimum wage without forcing staff cuts.

“If we can’t retain these people, it’s a crisis,” said former Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) who has continued his advocacy for disabled children and adults and their caregivers since leaving the legislature in 2014.

Weisenberg is the father of a developmentally disabled child, as are several of the Democrats and Republicans who attended Monday’s rally, which drew a couple of hundred disabled people and their caregivers to a packed a Capitol hallway.

Cuomo is scheduled to release his budget proposal in January.

Cuomo spokeswoman Jennifer O’Sullivan said Monday that the current budget includes increased pay for many direct support workers. She also said the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is exploring “career ladders” and credential programs to promote the field as a desirable career and to improve training.

The group that demonstrated Monday wants additional state funding for nonprofit groups that depend on state money so they can meet the rising minimum wage requirements enacted a year ago, bringing wages from $9 to $15 an hour in stages that differ in various areas of the state. An order by Cuomo’s minimum wage board, however, will increase the minimum wage for fast-food restaurant workers more quickly.

“When people flipping hamburgers make more money than those taking care of human beings, something is wrong,” Weisenberg said.


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