St. Lawrence County employer NYSARC says lack of funding for minimum wage increase could lead to job cuts across state
Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 6:30 am

NYSARC, one of St. Lawrence County’s largest employers says a lack of state funding to support non-profits facing a proposed hike in minimum wage could lead to job cuts.

NYSARC has pushed for provisions in the state budget to that would offset the cost of increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour. With no such funding, NYSARC says layoffs are likely across the state.

It is unclear if the cuts would impact St. Lawrence County workers.

St. Lawrence NYSARC, which serves about 750 clients, closed one workshop in Hermon last year, consolidated some services, and has cut its workforce from about 620 to about 580 through attrition over the last few years.

“We continue to be extraordinarily disappointed and will continue to work closely with our policymakers to ensure they firmly understand professional livelihoods and the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities are at stake. We are grateful to the many members of the Legislature who have joined us in expressing their support regarding this important state budget concern,” NYSARC Executive Director Steve Kroll said.

In a recent testimony submitted to the Joint Legislative Hearing of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees on the budget, Kroll said the governor’s proposal contains a serious flaw that threatens the financial viability of an entire field of caregivers and the people and families those caregivers support.

“Without a Medicaid rate increase in the state budget, not-for-profit providers will need to absorb $270 million in increased labor in year one and $1.7 billion in added labor costs by 2021. Such an unfunded expense will be devastating for the field, consequently leading to employee layoffs, and diminishing the quality of care to tens of thousands of New Yorkers with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and neurological impairments,” he said

In his testimony, Kroll recommended the appropriation of $270 million in the state budget to fully fund the first year increase in the minimum wage for employees working for not-for-profit developmental disabilities agencies.

But with no amendment in sight, NYSARC officials are predicting job losses.

“Pushing for an across-the-board minimum wage increase without offering any funding for developmental disability providers that are 90 percent Medicaid-reliant will amount to the largest unfunded mandate in the history of these programs. Our dedicated support professionals deserve to be paid a living wage, but funding that wage increase by reducing staff and eliminating services at our provider agencies will be our only alternative. The Governor needed to provide funding in his budget. Without action in this budget, the consequences to agencies like ours will be felt by the tens of thousands of people with developmental disabilities who depend on our care and assistance,” NYSARC President Laura Kennedy said.