Advocates for Western New Yorkers with developmental disabilities say they need more funding from the state in order to pay direct care workers competitive wages. They sent a loud reminder to lawmakers Tuesday.
A few hundred people packed the auditorium at the Buffalo Museum of Science for a BFair2DirectCare rally. They’re calling for a $45 million funding increase to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Advocates said direct care workers often leave the industry because they can make a better living doing something else.
“It’s just heartbreaking to watch then, individuals that have this support, that have these people in their lives that become so, so terribly important to them and sometimes even a member of their family it leaves like and then they have to leave, just to make more money,” Amy Jakiel of People Inc. said.

The measure appears to have bipartisan support from the Western New York delegation with a number of legislators speaking at the rally. They said the funding increase is vital this year because the state is increasing the minimum wage.

“We’ve seen in recent budgets that the legislator has listened to those in the special needs world that we represent and each year has put forward in the response to the governor’s budget, more funding than what the executive put forward. I hope the governor listens,” state Senator Pat Gallivan, R-Elma, said.

Because the not-for-profits are mostly funded by the state, the new mandates could actually lead to staffing cuts.
“I give 100 percent at my job and it would be nice just to kind of have that be placed back on me financially. It just gets tough at some points, better at some but it would be nice just to be like financially stable all the time just to enjoy the job more,” Christina Geska, a direct care worker at the Summit Educational Center, said.