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Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis
Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and GEC Executive Director Paul Cassone in Albany on Tuesday, March 28.

Brooklyn advocates are applauding the decision of New York State’s government, announced on March 28, to allocate $55 million in the upcoming state budget to raise salaries for Direct Support Providers (DSPs) who provide services and care for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In February, representatives of HeartShare Human Services, the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC) and local government officials took part in a rally calling for a rise in wages for DSPs.

Participants at the rally urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to allocate money in the state budget to fund a living wage for DSPs. Their wages are based on this government funding, as they are paid by non-profits. More than 90 percent of government funding for these organizations goes towards paying staff.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who had taken part in the February rally as well as another on March 28, has been in complete support of adding this funding to the state budget.

“This is a victory for our nonprofit organizations like the Guild for Exceptional Children, our hardworking direct care workers who deserve to be paid a fair wage, and those with developmental disabilities. Including the extra funding in the budget will mean providers will be able to retain experienced staff and families can have peace of mind that their loved ones are being cared for by professionals,” Malliotakis said.

Paul Cassone, the executive director and CEO of the GEC, who has worked as a DSP, stressed the importance of direct care providers and how they should be paid appropriately.

Expressing appreciation for the upcoming infusion of funding, Cassone said, “DSPs hold the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers in their hands. They need to have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job, but up to now, they have been paid less than clerks at Key Food. Enough is enough.”

Cassone also thanked local elected officials — State Senators Marty Golden and Diane Savino, as well as Malliotakis and other assemblymembers such as Peter Abbate and Pamela Harris, and Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz — who had joined the fight, partnering with DSPs to help them get a fair wage.

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