NYSARC, in collaboration with the New York State Association of Community & Residential Agencies and the New York State Rehabilitation Association, recently hosted the fourth annual Community Integration Leadership Institute. The keynote speaker, Deborah Bachrach, former state Medicaid Director, discussed how the per capita caps in the American Health Care Act could result in the state losing $44 billion in federal funding. Since the per capita cap will be based on the 2016 Medicaid Budget, anything added in 2017, such as the increase in DSP wages the chapter fought for, will not be factored in.
Thanks to the advocacy of The Arc Minnesota, the Minnesota Legislature passed and Governor Mark Dayton signed a Department of Health and Human Services funding bill that makes modest progress on several key priorities including:
- A 13% reduction in parental fees for participation in the TEFRA program.
- A 1% increase in the Medicaid spend-down, or about $10 per month
- $496,000 for statewide self-advocacy efforts;
- New services for those seeking competitive employment, pending approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and
- A 1.5% increase for personal care attendants under the SEIU contract, however there was no across the board increase for DSPs.
The Arc New Jersey, as part of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, organized a group of more than 50 family members, self-advocates, providers, and DSPs to visit the State House and advocate for higher wages for DSPs. They met with at least 50 elected officials, including Senate President Steve Sweeney and members of both Budget Committees. For more information, visit the Coalition Facebook page.
The Arc Wisconsin is advocating for a budget amendment to create a $5 million incentive fund to reward non-profit providers who improve compensation for DSPs. Because Wisconsin uses a managed care model, the state cannot directly increase rates for the purpose of increasing DSP wages. Incentive fund payments could be up to $1000 per full time employee and $500 per part time employee, depending on the number of applicants. Eligible providers must pay at least $10 per hour, contribute at least 70% of health insurance premiums, keep out-of-pocket health insurance costs below $4500, and contribute make an employer contribution of at least 3%; or pay at least $10 per hour and spend at least 65% of their general operating revenue on DSP salaries or benefits.
The Arc California is backing AB 279 and SB 499, which will increase Medicaid reimbursements rates for DSPs to cover local minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum wage. Providers in the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles County, Sacramento, and San Diego County do not receive adequate reimbursement to cover their cost in excess of the state minimum wage.
The Arc New Jersey, as Chair of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, recently coordinated more than 75 advocates to visit with the Assembly Budget Committee to show support for increasing wages for DSPs in the FY18 Budget. Self-advocates, their DSPs, and families packed the Committee Room as Department of Human Services Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly answered questions about the fiscal plan for the upcoming year. The Coalition had some concerns with those responses and intends to follow-up with Budget Committee members about the testimony. In addition to this hearing, the chapter continues to meet with budget members one-on-one to push for increased wages for DSPs and is coordinating a Twitter campaign to raise awareness by using the hashtag #PayFair4DirectCare. So far hundreds of tweets with this hashtag have been sent and more continue to come through.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc Arizona, the Arizona House budget includes funding to cover the costs of increasing the minimum wage for DSPs to comply with state-wide Proposition 206, which increases the state-wide minimum wage to $12/hour, and Flagstaff’s Proposition 414, which increases the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. The Arc Arizona is mobilizing its advocates to ensure that language remains in the budget and becomes law.
The Arc Tennessee is advocating for an increase in the DSP base wage from $8.73 to $9.73. It has been nearly ten years since the waiver rates were overhauled and they no longer reflect the cost of living or providing services. Governor Bill Haslam recently announced a 4.8% increase in his proposed budget for DSP wages, which would fund approximately 40% of the targeted increase. The Arc Tennessee welcomes this increase and will continue to advocate for more funding during the legislative session.
NYSARC, as part of the bFair2DirectCare coalition, recently secured a major victory in their fight to increase DSP wages throughout the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo raised his right hand and said: “this hand will not sign a budget unless there is $55 million in it [for DSP wage increases]!” Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan voiced their support for the proposal. Under the proposal, DSPs currently earning less than minimum wage scheduled to take effect over the next two years will have their pay increased to and receive an additional 3.25% increase in 2018. DSPs earning above minimum wage will receive a 6.5% increase over the next two years. This is a major victory for NYSARC and the #bFair2DirectCare movement that has long been advocating for a $45 million funding increase. Learn more about the campaign on NYSARC’s website. Follow the coalition on Facebook and Twitter.
The Arc New Jersey has been vigorously advocating for a DSP wage increase. Executive Director Tom Baffuto testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the issue. He explained that low wages create a barrier to recruitment and retention and that “Although the proposed budget recognizes the need for increased service dollars, those dollars do not help the system if we don’t have the necessary staff to deliver the services.” Additionally, advocates from The Arc New Jersey have been meeting with members of the Assembly Budget Committee.