Empower belongs to three alliances of developmental disability organizations: Coalition of Provider Associations, Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS) and Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY.)   One of the reasons for these collaboratives is to ensure the interests of individuals with developmental disabilities are heard by government so that when it comes time to approve the New York State budget, sufficient money has been allocated to fulfill these interests.

Direct service professionals (DSPs) work directly with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, ensuring their well-being, safety and health.  Despite this high-level of responsibility, pay is low and not enough to live on, resulting in high turnover and vacancy rates (Empower’s 10% vacancy rate is half New York State’s 20% vacancy rate.)  Agencies like Empower are working together to ensure compensation is reflective of the high level of decision-making and responsibility DSPs undertake, but we need your help.  Please contact your legislators and let them know that DSPs deserve a living wage.

#bfair2directcare is an joint advocacy effort spearheaded by CP of NYS and DDAWNY to lobby for $45 million to be added to the state budget for the next five years to support a living wage for direct care workers, teacher aides and other staff.  Empower has been doing its part, contacting Governor Cuomo, Assemblymember Morinello and Senator Ortt to remind them about individuals with developmental disabilities, direct care workers and the need for increased funding for wages.  This momentum will be kept up until the final budget is approved in April.

We value every Empower employee for upholding our mission: empowering those we serve to live their best lives.  Throughout this issue are examples of how Empower staff worked extra hard to make the holidays a special time for our individuals.  Every day, from Halloween through Christmas, people went above and beyond, promoting areas of need and answering that call through the delivery of gifts and good cheer.  Regardless of the budget outcome, we will prevail in being there for our workers and the individuals all of us are lucky enough to serve.  It is what we do, and as this issue illustrates, we do it well.