Representatives from The Arc New Jersey met separately with staff from the gubernatorial campaigns of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and former Ambassador Phil Murphy. They discussed issues important to I/DD community including the shift to a fee-for-service for Medicaid, DSP wage increases, and the importance of community integration. These meetings gave the chapter an opportunity to educate the candidates about the issues and the chapter ahead of election day.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proclaimed September 10-16 DSP Recognition Week. The Arc Massachusetts welcomes this proclamation and used the opportunity to raise awareness about the 40% turnover and the need for higher wages for DSPs.
The Arc California held a rally at the state Capitol in support of AB 279, which increases Medicaid reimbursement rates for wages of DSPs in cities with a minimum wage higher than the state’s. Over 500 marchers were in attendance. Legislators who spoke at the rally include Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), and Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland). The Senate appropriation committee did not approve AB 279, but advocates are optimistic because of the number of legislators who participated in the rally.
Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs for The Arc Massachusetts, testified in favor of H.116/S.42 at a hearing before the General Court’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. The bill provides student loan forgiveness to graduates who work in the human services field, including DSPs. During her testimony, she stated: “Direct care workers are the glue that holds this community together and we are in crisis due to a shortage.”
The Illinois General Assembly approved a state budget over the veto from Governor Bruce Rauner. The budget includes a $0.75 per hour increase in DSP wages, which currently start at $9.35 per hour. This is a modest victory for The Arc Illinois and the They Deserve More campaign, which have been pushing for a minimum DSP wage of $15/hour. The was the first DSP wage increase in eight years.
The Arc New Jersey has successfully advocated for $20 million to increase DSP wages. This measure was included in the state budget recently signed into law by Governor Chris Christie. This accomplishment was the result of months of hard work from the grassroots. This summer the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage will reconvene to plan for seeking another increase in the FY 19 Budget.
The Arc California is continuing to advocate for passage of AB 279, which increases Medicaid reimbursement to DSPs to cover local minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum wage. The bill passed the Assembly 77-0 and the Senate Human Services Committee 5-0 and has been re-referred to the Appropriations Committee. Governor Jerry Brown’s administration has publicly opposed the bill and instead wants to wait until after a rate study is performed in 2019. The Arc California asserts that providers facing these minimum wage increases cannot wait that long for an increase.
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.