Long-term recruitment strategies designed to help tackle workforce shortage
√ Retention incentives to be provided to direct support workers, with additional bonus for staff who get COVID-19 vaccine
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities will provide over $1.5 billion in one-time American Rescue Plan Act Funding to support recruitment efforts, retention incentives and vaccination bonuses for direct support professionals who provide support for people with developmental disabilities in an effort to address workforce shortages in this field.
"Direct support professionals provided essential support to people with developmental disabilities throughout the pandemic when we needed them most, in spite of the risk to themselves and their own families," Hochul said. "We owe these workers a debt of gratitude, and the American Rescue Plan funding paves the way for bonuses, incentives and one-time pay raises to help keep these hardworking, loyal and devoted workers doing what they love most: supporting people with developmental disabilities."
New York state submitted its initial draft spending plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the enhanced federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on July 8. The CMS has provided partial approval of the plan as it relates to the workforce.
As approved, OPWDD's plan targeted most of the funding to workforce initiatives, including payments to provide bonuses to DSPs and family care providers. OPWDD plans to invest the one-time ARPA funding in workforce improvements and incentives including:
√ A "Heroes Fund," which will provide incentive payments to those DSPs who worked during the unprecedented pandemic with additional payments for those who received the COVID-19 vaccine.
√ Retention and longevity bonuses will make additional investments in the workforce by rewarding longevity and providing additional bonuses to staff who remain in the DSP workforce.
√ Long-term recruitment and retention strategies that will be developed and tested with funding for projects that address the long-term stability of the workforce. Funding will be made available to incentivize credentialing and other strategies that build skills and competency of DSP workforce and front-line supervisors.
Acting Commissioner of the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Kerri E. Neifeld said, "Direct support professionals provide essential services to people with developmental disabilities so they can lead rich and rewarding lives of their choosing. They are the backbone of our system, and they bravely showed up to work throughout the pandemic to care for and support some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Although the work is emotionally and physically taxing, direct support is a labor of love for the people who choose this career. As commissioner, I am pleased to be able to make crucial investments in the direct support workforce through the American Rescue Plan Act funds, and look forward to continuing to support this vital workforce."
Michael Seereiter, President and CEO of the New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation, said, "These resources begin to help stem the exodus of direct support professionals from our field by recognizing DSPs for the extraordinary work they have always done – but especially that which DSPs demonstrated throughout the pandemic – literally sacrificing their own health and well-being for that of people with disabilities they support. This commitment represents a refreshing new perspective in governmental priorities and serves as an extraordinary down payment toward raising up the DSP profession, as DSPs help raise up New Yorkers with disabilities to be all that they can be."
At this time, these disbursements are only available to family care providers and direct support workers who are employed by voluntary service providers, including staff who deliver services under the self-direction program. Discussions are ongoing regarding state employed direct support workers.