November 19, 2021
CMS Approves $1.5 Billion in funding
Governor Hochul announced yesterday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) proposal for the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The new Appendix K waiver includes the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (eFMAP) funding, which has been discussed since the initial draft plan was submitted in July. The total package is estimated to be $1.5 billion.

The Arc New York CEO Erik Geizer was quoted in the governor’s press release, stating, "Our essential workforce is the foundation of supports and services for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and these funds represent the first step in what we hope will be a sustained investment in our workforce. We are very pleased to hear the waiver was approved, and grateful to state leadership for ensuring the funds will be directed to address our most critical needs."

The plan targets most of the funding to workforce initiatives, including payments to provide bonuses to Direct Support Professionals (DSP) and family care providers. OPWDD plans to invest the one-time ARPA funding in workforce improvements and incentives including:

  • A "Heroes Fund," which will provide incentive payments to those DSPs who worked during the unprecedented pandemic. The plan calls for $1,000 for each full-time DSPs who was employed for at least 90 days between 3/17/2020 and 9/1/2021 and is currently employed by providers. Additional payments for those who received the COVID vaccine are available for workers who have been fully vaccinated by 12/1/2021. The vaccine bonuses are $500 for full-time employees, $250 for part-time employee (at least 20 hours), and $125 for part-time employees working less than 20 hours per week.
  • Retention and longevity bonuses, which will provide investments in the workforce by rewarding longevity and offer additional bonuses to staff who remain in the DSP workforce. The bonuses will apply to DSPs employed between 4/1/2020 – 3/31/2021 and who remained on payroll through 9/1/2021.
  • Long-term recruitment and retention strategies, which will be developed and tested with funding for projects that address the long-term stability of the workforce. Retention bonuses will apply to employees who worked between 4/1/2021 – 3/31/22 and who remain on the last complete payroll ending on or before 3/31/22. Additionally, funding will be made available to incentivize credentialing and other strategies that build skills and competency of DSP workforce and front-line supervisors. 

These disbursements are only available to family care providers and direct support workers who are employed by voluntary service providers, including staff who deliver services under the self-direction program. More specifics will continue to emerge as the implantation of the plan moves forward.

The Arc New York Advocacy Webinar
On Thursday, The Arc New York presented a webinar on its 2022 advocacy plan and vision. During the session, presenters gave a brief retrospective on advocacy efforts over the past four months, introduced the FY 22-23 budget agenda priorities, laid out a strategy and timeline for engaging legislators, provided tactics and lessons for successful meetings, and communicated the goal of engaging and mobilizing our members and allies. The recorded session can be viewed here and presentation slides here.

NYDA and The Arc New York Release Budget Talking Points
In preparation for meetings with NYS legislators on the upcoming state budget, NYDA released talking points and information sheets in partnership with The Arc New York to aid advocates in educating lawmakers. The documents expand on our core legislative agenda: 

  • Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) – Projected to be 5.4% for FY 2023
  • Workforce funding: continued funding of the 20% wage enhancement received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
  • Recruitment and retention of staff through tax incentives, career ladders and credentialing programs, and regulatory reform
  • Concerns with new rate methodology

As always, we will be sure to keep you aware, prepared, and resourced to support our advocacy efforts and inform you of opportunities to act.

NYDA asks for Hold on Regulatory Actions
The Arc New York joined New York Disability Advocates (NYDA) in submitting a letter to Kerri Neifeld, Acting Commissioner of OPWDD requesting a hold be placed on all pending administrative actions until a thorough review is completed by the new administration.

Specifically, they cited the need to delay the regulation regarding Certified Residential Opportunities (CRO), as the five-year 5.07 plan and new rate setting methodology have yet to be completed and should be promulgated prior to any regulatory changes.

The Arc New York previously sent comments and recommendations on the CRO regulation and 5.07 plan.

Save the Date: NYDA Legislative Roundtable
The Arc New York will join NYDA for a Legislative Roundtable on Wednesday, December 15 from 2-4 PM. This is an opportunity to bring legislators together and discuss our NYS budget priorities and other matters of policy affecting people with I/DD and I/DD providers. You can register for the roundtable here.
Call to Action: Education Parity Needs Final Push
On Tuesday, Senator John Mannion of Syracuse and Andrew Gounardes of Brooklyn rallied with advocates in support of S.6516-A (Mannion)/A.8013 (Benedetto), which amends the Education Law to establish a tuition methodology for 4410 special education preschools and 853 special education schools to provide annual growth commensurate with that of public school district foundation aid.

This legislation has passed both the NYS Senate and Assembly and is awaiting the governor’s signature, but the clock is ticking for her to sign it. Please click here to send a message to Governor Hochul, letting her know that students with I/DD should receive the same level of education funding as those without. Public education should not discriminate, and all we ask for is parity and equity.

The Arc New York’s CEO Erik Geizer previously sent a letter to Governor Hochul strongly supporting this legislation. 

The Arc NY CEO Erik Geizer Participates in Emeritus Center Panel
On Monday, November 15, The Emeritus Center at the University at Albany conducted a panel discussion entitled, “The Challenges of Providing Services to the Intellectual and Developmental Disability (I/DD) Community Within Today’s Political Environment." Erik Geizer, CEO of The Arc New York was invited to speak, as were other members of The Arc New York community. We look forward to continuing our relationship with this and other institutions as we seek to form greater partnerships within the academic community. The full video can be found here.

News Wrap-up
Stories from across the state and nation continue to support our call for additional supports and investments in the DSP workforce and the wider I/DD field. Below is a sampling of stories that highlight this need from every perspective.

  • The Arc Rockland conveyed concerns about how inflation might affect operations given the fiscal pressure faced by providers to News12 Westchester.

  • ACHIEVE (Broome-Chenango-Tioga) DSP Loretta Kinner walked Spectrum News through her day, the pleasure of working with people, and the hardship faced with not enough workers.

  • News 12 Hudson Valley shared a profile of DSPs struggling with low wages and making ends meet and the concerns families and providers have for the future.

  • And, in a cautionary tale of what could happen in NY unless we are diligent, ABC Action News Tampa reported that Florida is forcing people on to the streets.
New York City Rally
On Tuesday, November 9, members of New York Disability Advocates (NYDA), NYC FAIR, and Save Our Services (SOS) held a rally to address the state’s workforce crisis of DSPs. Joining the groups were, Assembly members David Weprin and Joanne Simons, with remarks from State Senator John Mannion and Assembly member Tom Abinanti, alongside DSPs, self-advocates, and parents. Video of the event can be found on NYDA’s Facebook page and the full press release with quotes from legislators can be found here. 

Governor Hochul Announces Nominations and Appointments
On November 9, Governor Hochul announced new administration nominations and appointments:
  • Dr. Chinazo O. Cunningham will be nominated as Commissioner, Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS)
  • Reverend Viviana DeCohen has been appointed Director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Services
  • Kylah Hynes has been appointed Director of Federal Affairs

The full press release with short bios can be found here.
This and all advocacy updates are archived on The Arc New York website for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.
Contact: Philip Aydinian, Director of Governmental Affairs 
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