To the Editor:
We congratulate our state leaders for coming through with a budget, and appreciate that additional support addressing the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities has been included in this important legislation.
In particular, we commend those legislators who championed our cause by ensuring that a wage increase for caregivers was included in the budget. We also extend our gratitude to those elected officials who took extremely tough votes to put this budget into law. They set political expediency aside for the good of the state.
Individuals with disabilities rely heavily on the personal and professional help provided by their caregivers. Before passage of this budget, it had been nearly a decade since these direct support professionals (DSPs) received an increase in their starting wages, which averaged just over $9 an hour.
This lack of funding has led to devastating outcomes for those who rely on DSPs for daily care; community homes have closed, hundreds of caregiver positions have gone unfilled, and nearly 20,000 children and adults with disabilities have languished on a state waiting list for services.
This budget includes an important first step — a 75-cent per hour raise which will help provide a much-needed increase in starting wages for DSPs. But it is only a first step. As we move forward, we hope that state leaders will make good on their intention to make the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities a priority. That includes funding a living and competitive wage of $15/hour.