February 18, 2022
The Arc New York Budget Testimony, Advocacy Toolkit & Call to Action
The Arc New York CEO Erik Geizer delivered testimony at Monday's Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the Mental Hygiene Executive Budget proposal, and The Arc New York submitted formal testimony calling for the nonnegotiable inclusion of investments in supports and services for New Yorkers with I/DD. A full recording of the hearing can be found here, along with the written testimony of all participants. Geizer’s remarks start at the 5-hour and 28-minute mark.

Overall, our advocacy with the governor was successful. The Executive Budget includes critical funding for a 5.4% cost-of-living adjustment, workforce retention bonuses, recruitment initiatives, capital improvements and special education. Now we must advocate with legislators to ensure this needed funding is included in the final budget.

Your voice is vitally important to our advocacy. We've created a one-click email campaign to help you connect directly with your legislators to call for investment in supports and services for New Yorker's with I/DD. We encourage you to take a moment to send a letter, and to share the link on social media and with your networks. The more people who participate, the more legislators are aware of our priorities. Together we can lift more than 100,000 voices across the state!

To support your advocacy efforts, The Arc New York has created an updated advocacy toolkit, including shareable information sheets and talking points. This is an important time to advocate prior to the release of one-house budget bills, which are typically released the second week of March. Find your representative here, and be sure to report the outcome of your meeting by completing our outreach survey.
Announcement of Kimberly T. Hill as Chief Disability Officer
On Monday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the establishment of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities and appointed Kimberly T. Hill as the State's first Chief Disability Officer (CDO). 

The Office of the Chief Disability Officer seeks to establish New York as a model for inclusivity, integration, and accessibility by ensuring all state policies, programs, and activities meet the needs of people with disabilities. The CDO will collaborate with the State's Chief Diversity Officer in the Executive Chamber to strengthen a comprehensive approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion work across the state. The CDO will also coordinate the State's implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and serve as the Chair of the Most Integrated Settings Coordinating Council.

At the same press conference, Governor Hochul pledged to have state agencies designate up to 1,200 jobs to be filled by qualified individuals with disabilities. Hochul noted that New York lags the nation in employing disabled individuals. Only 35% of people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 currently have jobs. The opportunities at state agencies will be a step toward equity and integration.

The full announcement, along with a complete bio of Hill can be found here.

Direct Care Bonus Modifications in 30-day Budget Amendments
Today, the NYS Division of the Budget released its 30-day amendments to the FY23 Executive Budget, which includes modifications to the Health and Mental Hygiene Article VII language pertaining to health care and mental hygiene worker bonuses. A version of the bill with additions in green and deletions in red can be found here. The Arc New York advocated for some of these modifications, which expand eligibility and better reflect the realities of our workforce.

These amendments include:
  • Increasing the income ceiling from an annualized base salary of $100,000 to $125,000.
  • Reducing the top-tier eligibility for the $3,000 bonus from 40 to 35 average hours worked.
  • Clarifying that full-time employees who are exempt from overtime compensation over the course of a vesting period will be eligible for a $1,500 bonus, and maximum of $3,000 over two periods.
  • Expanding and clarifying eligible employers to include school-based health centers, institutions of higher education, public or nonpublic schools, charter schools, approved preschool programs for students with disabilities, school districts or boards of cooperative educational services (BOCES), a health district as defined in section two of the public health law, municipal corporations, and programs funded by the Office of Mental Health, Office of Addiction Services And Supports, Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, and Office for The Aging.
  • Further defining the vesting period as a series of six-month periods between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2024. Employees that are continuously employed by an employer during these periods will be eligible in accordance with a schedule issued by the Commissioner of Health or relevant agency commissioner.
  • Defining "base salary" as the employee's gross wages with the employer during the vesting period, excluding any bonuses or overtime pay.
  • Eliminating the specific use of payroll records from 2021 as a means to determine an employee's annualized base salary.
  • Eliminating language specifically dividing payments into two vesting periods, removing the restriction of vesting periods being limited to a total of one year, and removing the cutoff date of March 31, 2023 for employees to be eligible.
  • Clarifying language that employees shall be eligible for bonuses for no more than two vesting periods per employer, in an amount equal to but not greater than $3,000 per employee across all employers.
  • Upon completion of a vesting period, an employee is entitled to receive the bonus and the employer is required to pay the bonus within 30 days, provided that the employee does not terminate, through action or inaction, the employment relationship with the employer prior to such date.
  • The requirement for employers to submit a claim for a bonus to the relevant department no later than thirty days after an employee's eligibility for a bonus vests according to the schedule issued by the Commissioner.
  • The use of any accruals or other leave, including but not limited to sick, vacation, or time used under FMLA, shall be credited towards and included in the calculation of the average number of hours worked per week over the course of the vesting period.

Comments and Observations on Supported Decision Making Legislation
This week, The Arc New York CEO Erik Geizer submitted a letter to Senator John Mannion and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon regarding S7107(Mannion)/A8586(Simon), which proposes the creation of Article 82 of the Mental Hygiene Law to formalize Supported Decision-Making (SDM).

The Arc New York's comments emphasized that the use of SDM should be encouraged when appropriate, and the bill language should more clearly address this point to eliminate any presumptionsIn order for SDM to be successful, this legislation must require the appropriateness for a particular individual given their circumstances. He went on to point out potential challenges with implementation and the need for adequate training of Surrogate Court staff.

We look forward to working with the sponsors of this legislation to advance amendments that The Arc New York feels are necessary to make SDM a success.

2022 NADSP Advocacy Symposium – Amplifying DSP Voices
The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) is holding its first-ever national advocacy event March 9-10, 2022, to bring the direct support professional (DSP) perspective to the forefront of Congress and the Administration.

Challenges from the pandemic and recent legislation have provided new insights and opportunities for DSPs. NADSP recognizes the critical importance of lifting the voices of DSPs to federal policy-makers, to ensure public policy is informed by the people who are on the front lines of supporting people with disabilities to live, work and thrive in the community.

NADSP will provide DSPs from all across the country with comprehensive advocacy virtual training, culminating with virtual meetings with Congressional leaders and staff on March 10, to educate and advocate on NADSP’s public policy priorities for 2022. The goal of the symposium is to bolster the ranks and knowledge of DSP advocates, so recruitment and registration should be primarily focused on DSPs. Visit the event page for registration and more information.

Registration Open for 2022 Disability Policy Seminar
Registration for the 2022 Disability Policy Seminar is now open. This year's seminar will be will be a hybrid event from March 28-30. You will have the opportunity to join advocates in person in Washington, DC or virtually!

The Disability Policy Seminar offers the opportunity for passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to come together and learn about key issues that affect them most. After attending, you will have the tools to bring strong advocacy to virtual meetings and other follow-up actions as we work to raise awareness among members of Congress about issues important to the disability community.

Register by March 13 to take advantage of early bird rates!

If you plan on attending, please inform Philip Aydinian, Director of Governmental Affairs at The Arc New York so he can assist with any delegation plans and congressional meetings. aydinianp@thearcny.org
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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