Assemblymember Karen McMahon Calls on Governor to Include Support for DSPs in Executive Budget

AMHERST – In a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday, Assemblymember Karen McMahon (D-Amherst), along with several of her Western New York colleagues, called for an investment in Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to address the workforce crisis facing those who care for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD).

In the letter, McMahon explained that due to years of inaction and even budget cuts by New York State, DSPs are underpaid, under supported, and understaffed. According to McMahon, continued investment by the State is necessary to revitalize the industry and adequately serve the individuals, families, and agencies that depend on the care and professionalism of DSPs.

“It is imperative that we make a lasting investment in the wages of Direct Support Professionals to ensure the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce, securing the viability of the field,” said McMahon. “These highly-skilled professionals are committed to the essential care of individuals with I/DD, taking on a multitude of critical responsibilities to enhance the safety, productivity, and overall well-being of the I/DD community.”

DSPs are trained in first aid, CPR, and medication administration. They provide daily support, including meal preparation, transport facilitation, and attending to the social, emotional and psychological needs of the individuals they serve. Their commitment ensures that New Yorkers with I/DD enjoy the highest possible quality of life.

Given the broad and serious nature of the responsibilities of a DSP, the current rate of compensation is inadequate. DSPs in New York City start at $16.45/hour, while in Western New York and the rest of the state, starting wages are $16.02. These rates, barely over the minimum wage, have been a key factor in sluggish hiring and retention rates in the field. In the letter to Hochul, McMahon urged the Governor to include the creation of a new Direct Support Wage Enhancement in the 2024 Executive Budget.

“This initiative would provide non-profit provider agencies with an annual funding allocation of $4,000 per eligible employee, specifically designated to enhance the hourly rate of pay for low-paid staff responsible for direct care and support of individuals with I/DD,” McMahon said. “This increase equates to approximately $2 per hour for full-time employees.

In the letter, McMahon also called for a 3.2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment in the upcoming budget. Since I/DD providers are solely funded by Medicaid, they are unable to increase their reimbursement rates to offset rising operating costs. This adjustment would ensure that not-for-profit agencies can continue to serve this vulnerable community.

Several members of the NYS Legislature from Western New York, including Senator Sean Ryan and Assemblymembers Monica Wallace, Patrick Burke, William Conrad and Jonathan Rivera, signed on to McMahon’s letter in support.