Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council holds annual legislative brunch

They’re demanding more help for the needy.

The Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council (BDDC) hosted its annual legislative breakfast at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, 2911 West 15th Street, to discuss with local representatives the future of services, supports and funding for Brooklyn residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Friday, March 3 event highlighted BFair2DirectCare, the call to action to remind state leaders that direct care not-for-profit agency workers deserve more financial help.

“Everything regarding supports and funding for people with developmental disabilities is important but this year specifically we are targeting specifically on the BFair2Direct campaign,” said Chairperson of BDDC Lorenzo Brown. “If we don’t have the trained and qualified staff to provide the support and services of these people, it’s literally eroding away the foundation of this entire service system.”

The increase in minimum wage was also discussed.

“What the governor did with minimum wage was bittersweet,” he explained. “We’re happy to see our fellow New Yorkers can earn a decent living but what it’s done is it’s taking the work that we’ve done and put us in competition with the same minimum wage workers and what we do is not minimum wage work. Now we’re forced to compete with everyone lined with minimum wage.”

The campaign is requesting that Governor Andrew Cuomo put another $45 million in this year’s budget and over the next six years to non-profit providers.

Education was also at the forefront.

Chris Treiber, associate executive director of children services at the Interagency Council discussed the struggles faced by teachers educating individuals with disabilities. “Our programs have the special education pre-school programs and school age programs,” he explained. “Children with significant developmental delays and the programs are in significant distress because they’ve been very much underfunded for a number of years. There was a period where neither program got any kind of tuition increases and pre-schools didn’t get an increase for more than six years and so what’s happening now is they’re having difficulty hiring staff.”

Treiber also added the huge disparity between what public schools pay and what their schools can pay. “The New York City School system can pay a teacher $20,000 more than we can and that’s for a 10 month school year. Our program operates on a 12 month school year.”

They are asking for an increase in $18 million statewide to assist in helping to maintain and recruit teachers, specialized teachers for the programs and that number is calculated to reduce disparity.

Paul Cassone, director for Guild for Exceptional Children also discussed the educational side. “We are telling Governor Cuomo that he needs to be fair to direct care staff,” he said. “They earn about 40 percent less that the staff who do the same work who live in the state and the job is complex. They administer medications; they curate food, and know how to adjust feeding tubes. It’s a series of technical skills involved in this, and at this point, fast food workers make more than they do. Not to disparage them but in terms of complexity of this work, they need to be above minimum wage.”

Elected officials also weighed in on the topic. “It’s very important for legislatures to be here to show providers that they have support on both the assembly and senate side to get the funding they need to provide the services they do,” said Assemblymember Peter Abbate.

“It’s not easy to want to get up early every morning, go to work and do a hard job and not get paid,” added State Senator Marty Golden. “We have to change that and make it better for the client and the worker. “

“I love every job and position, but how is it that I can serve you a burger and make more money than I can serving a human being?” asked Assemblymember Pam Harris.

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