Empower Attends Rally in Albany, Calls for Significant Investments into Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

(Niagara Falls, NY) – Last week, Empower CEO Diane Baehre, Director of Education Kathleen Bailey, and Teacher Greer Claffey attended a rally at the Capitol in Albany to call for increased investments into support for the intellectual and developmental disability community after the Governor’s proposed budget failed to meet the needs of the field.

“Last year the Governor and the New York State legislature failed the intellectual and developmental disability community when they refused to make needed investments to insure quality care. This year the Governor’s proposed budget shows once again that decision makers in Albany are not placing a priority on caring for the most vulnerable in our communities,” Empower CEO Diane Baehre said. “We are facing a staffing shortage due to low pay, which will soon become a full-blown crisis across our industry unless legislators and the Governor act to raise wages to meet inflationary pressures. We rely on state funding, as does every other voluntary human services agency across the state, when the Governor and the legislature fail to hear our needs and act with the urgency we continue to communicate, they are putting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities directly at risk of losing the critical care they rely on.”

The rally was hosted by CP State and had many speakers ranging from NYS Assemblymembers and Senators, self-advocates, families, and direct support professionals. Specifically, Empower is calling for:

  • 3.2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Direct Support Professionals (the Governor has only proposed a 1.5%, and FY24 budget she signed only had a 4% COLA when 8.5% was needed to meet inflationary pressures), 
  • The passage of Senator Mannion and Assemblywoman Seawright’s legislation (S.4127-A/A.5268-A) which would provide an average of a $2/hr raise to direct support professionals (or an average of $4,000 per year)
  • An 11% increase in the reimbursement rate for early intervention programs, 
  • And a 4.3% annual growth to 4410 and 853 special education schools to support the recruitment and retention staff and cover inflationary costs. 

“The sad truth is New York State has underfunded intellectual and developmental disability support programs for far too long. This looming crisis is of the Governor, former Governor, and the legislature’s own making and without serious and immediate investment support home closures, reduced service offerings, and reduced care capacity can be expected across the state,” Baehre said. “Investing in our staff and ensuring a fair and livable wage, ensures the most vulnerable in our community have the care they need. It is far past time for our leaders in Albany to take these issues seriously and act responsibly and make the needed investments our industry needs.”