Friends and family of Imagine;
Happy Independence Day to all of you. Happy Independence day in particular to all of the people we serve who have their own home for the first time since last July 4 (there are five) Happy independence day to everyone we serve who started working since last Fourth of July (there is at least one.) Happy Independence to everyone we serve who have found a new relationship or a new family or expanded their natural circle of support in the last year (there are many.)
The first news is that we have three new members joining the Imagine family in July. We look forward to Patrick, Dianna and Rae. Two will be joining our SLS program and one will be part of a new Family Home Agency Family. They will bring with them family members, new staff and friends. We welcome you all and look forward to a lifetime of getting to know you.
In addition to three new people we have the privilege of serving, we have two new people sharing that privilege that we'd like to introduce. Heather Cahill is our new Facilitator, but has been an employee of Imagine's since she was young. Well while she was young but going back years.
Martha Johanson joined the Imagine Board of Directors on Monday. She is an advocate for people with autism, the mother of a teenager with that diagnosis. A native of Peru (and a recovering Hoosier,) she has been especially focused on services for the Spanish-speaking and immigrant communities. In addition to Imagine she is a member of the board of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area and a member of so many committees focused on the welfare of people with developmental disabilities that I doubt I'll see her 5% more often now that she's my boss.
You might have heard that the State of California will be providing, beginning July 1, new funding for our programs to be used for increasing direct care staff compensation. At Imagine, all of that new funding will be going to increase the wages for our direct care staff and these are the most meaningful across-the-board wage increases for direct care staff I have seen in 16 years in this field, and I have been trying the whole time. Fun Imagine Executive Director Trivia Fact: I first became friends with Julie Rienhardt when we were two of a very small number of service providers willing to work with SEIU in the hope of raising wages in the field.
With that said, I am embarrassed how many times people have thanked me since I sent word to staff on Monday. No substantial credit belongs to me, as the state mandated these funds be used for this purpose. Some credit belongs to the Imagine Board of Directors who, at their meeting Monday instructed me to add all of the wage pass-through funding to direct care staff wages, with a second, smaller rate increase (meant for administrative costs) to pay the cost of additional workers' compensation and payroll taxes. A lot of credit belongs to the California Disability Community Action Network, Person Centered Advocacy Partnership and Disability Rights California who first advocated the wage pass-through concept. And when you see Ernie Huerta, his testimony sure hasn't hurt. This is a great time to tell your legislators if you're happy about this change. Assemblymember Mark Stone and State Senator Bill Monning both played important roles in helping this to happen.
In some ways, it wouldn't have mattered at Imagine, as we recognize and embrace that compensating direct care staff helps them to stay and that good staff staying is our best strategy for improving outcomes for the people we serve. But it matters a lot that every agency will be expected to raise wages. It matters to how people with developmental disabilities are seen that the support they receive is respected. We can all focus a little bit of our Fourth of July patriotism on the fact that people with developmental disabilities are being valued by their neighbors.
In terms of the connection between direct care staff, compensation and the spirit of Imagine's mission, some other people deserve credit. Because of our donors, fundraisers and board, Imagine staff will receive nearly $27,000 in bonuses in the payroll just before these new increases take effect. On behalf of everyone who works here, thank you.
As ever, if you have any questions, concerns or other feedback, please do get in touch. You can email me here or call me at extension 1.
Happy Fourth of July and mind your fuses,