November 7, 2017
Direct Support Professionals enable people with intellectual/developmental disabilities to thrive in communities; they deserve a living wage
More than 30,000 New Jersey residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) rely on direct support professionals (DSPs) to provide the needed assistance to thrive in communities across the Garden State. DSPs are highly-trained professionals who perform critical, complex work, but their pay is abysmally low and has remained virtually flat for over a decade. Tragically, these low wages are at the core of the DSP workforce shortage that is putting the state’s community-based care system for individuals with I/DD at risk.
DSPs work in group residential settings, apartments, and community-based homes. They teach in adult learning centers and support people with I/DD who have satisfying jobs in a variety of settings. Many provide round-the-clock care. They develop and implement treatment plans. Administer medications. Build life skills. Help people reach life goals. They are trusted friends and mentors. DSPs are the cornerstone of the community-based services system that enables people with I/DD to live as independently as possible.
The problem is the average starting salary for DSPs in New Jersey is just $10.50 an hour. At that rate, caring people who want to dedicate their lives to serving others simply cannot afford to consider direct service work as a viable employment option. Low wages are forcing many DSPs to work multiple jobs or receive public assistance just to make ends meet. And equally troubling, the lack of compensation is contributing to an approximately 44% turnover that is interfering with the continuity of care that individuals with I/DD need to feel safe and secure.
The election of a new Governor and full Legislature provides an opportunity for the state to stabilize the disability service system by investing in a living wage for DSPs. More than 1,000 individuals with I/DD, their families, community provider agencies and DSPs have joined the “Coalition for a DSP Living Wage” to advocate for a fair, living wage for these professionals who play a critical role in enabling people with I/DD to attain full integration in their communities.
Last year, policymakers approved the first minimum wage increase for DSPs in 11 years. While an important first step, lawmakers need appropriate funding to raise wages by $1.25 for the next four years to bring the starting salary to a competitive $16.75 living wage by 2022. A DSP living wage will ensure the qualified, experienced and stable workforce required to safeguard the health, safety, and well-being of people with I/DD in New Jersey. The Coalition for a DSP Living Wage looks forward to working with the new Governor and members of the Legislature to make it happen.
For more information about the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, visit http://www.njdspcoalition.org/ “Like” us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NJDSP… and “Follow” us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NJDSPCoali…
November 3, 2017
Tuesday is an important election in New Jersey. Unfortunately, an important issue to our family is not being talked about in the campaigns — the shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), who enable people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, like our daughter, to live safe, healthy and productive lives in the community.
A big reason there aren’t enough DSPs in New Jersey is because the pay is so low. Elected officials need to put money in the state budget for DSPs to get a raise. Currently, my husband works part time so that he can care for our daughter, who works part-time at the Arc of Monmouth Work Opportunity Center. She loves her job and does well. We know that with the support of the right DSP she can one day get her own apartment and work in the community, which would enable my husband to return to work full time.
MORE: PrimeTime Center opens its third location – Now in Brick
But how can we find a DSP we can trust to not only do this important job, but stay long term and not leave to make more money? Losing the comfort of a trusted DSP could cause significant setbacks to our daughter, jeopardizing her safety and well-being. New Jersey elected officials need to raise wages for DSPs now.
Lauren & Vance Zalepka
July 26, 2017
As the funding for DSPs makes its way through the budget process, we want to make sure you remain informed about the most recent updates. With that in mind, we want you to know that the Joint Budget Oversight Committee unanimously passed a resolution yesterday. This resolution directs the Office of Management and Budget to make the necessary calculations that will result in distribution of these funds. This was a procedural, but important and required step and we were glad to see JBOC support this matter.
Please know that we continue to work with leaders in the Legislature on this issue so that funds are made available to DSPs as soon as possible. We will provide additional updates in the weeks to come.
July 26, 2017
Following the news of our recent budget victory, we have received a number of questions regarding the $20 million line item and when we expect this funding will be available to the State’s Direct Support Professional workforce. With this in mind, we thought it important to share with you an update and some additional information about how the budgeting process works.
July 12, 2017
Now that a few days have passed since Governor Christie signed the FY18 Budget, it’s important that we take the time to recognize and thank those that were so pivotal to our recent victory. No legislator fought harder for the $20 million line item to increase wages for our Direct Support Professionals than Senate President Sweeney. Not only did he ensure funding was added to the Budget, he did everything in his power to protect the funding from a line-item veto. With this in mind, please take a moment this week to call Senate President Sweeney’s district office and thank him for all of his hard work. Obtaining money to increase wages was by no means an easy battle. It’s important that we show our appreciation for those who helped us in our fight.
Chair of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage
July 4, 2017
I am thrilled to report that the final Budget document, signed very early this morning by the Governor, includes $20 million to increase wages for Direct Support Professionals! This is an outstanding victory and the product of many months of hard work, collaboration, and advocacy. The Coalition for a DSP Living Wage would like to thank everyone who participated in our action alerts, forwarded our materials, came out to our lobbying day in Trenton and shared our posts on social media. This was not an easy battle, but the developmental disability community came together and together, we were able to make a difference.
Today we celebrate, but the work is not over. This summer our Steering Committee will reconvene so advocacy plans can begin for the FY19 Budget. Direct Support Professionals need higher wages so they can continue to provide the critically-important services people with I/DD and their families rely on. That is why we will bring this battle back to lawmakers as we continue our ongoing campaign to raise wages. Thank you again to everyone who supported the Coalition’s efforts and congratulations on helping us achieve this outcome.
Enjoy the 4th of July, and keep a look out for more correspondence from the Coalition in the months to come!
Chair of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage
June 27, 2017
*** We were just informed that the Speaker’s voice mailbox is full. If you are unable to get through or leave a voicemail, email the Speaker with the talkings points included below, at AsmPrieto@njleg.org **
The Budget must be signed by June 30th and the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage must do everything in our power to ensure an increase for Direct Support Professionals in Fiscal Year 2018. Toward that end, we need your help. An increase for Direct Support Professionals is included in the Budget bill, but we need to make sure it stays in! The Senate and Assembly will vote on Thursday, so we need you to act now!
June 26, 2017
Governor Christie will be a guest tonighton “Ask the Governor” and we need you to call into the program and urge him to support an increased wage for Direct Support Professionals in the FY18Budget. With only four days left in the fiscal year, this is an excellent opportunity to bring attention to the issue on live radio!
May 1, 2017
We Need You at the State House
Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Connolly will testify before the Assembly Budget Committee this Monday,
May 1, and we need you to be there! It’s critical that members of the Coalition fill the Committee Room in support of our campaign to increase
wages for Direct Support Professionals in the FY18 Budget.
What Do You Need to Know
Free parking is available in the State House Garage. Additional garages are located on State Street, but they do not include free parking. Directions and additional parking information can be found here.
May 2, 2017
We Need Your Help: Take Part in ‘Tweet Your Legislator Tuesday’
The State Budget must be signed by June 30. That means there are only 8 weeks left to influence lawmakers to include a $1.25 an hour increase for Direct Support Professionals in the Fiscal Year ’18 Budget. With that in mind, we need you to join us in taking to Twitter, this Tuesday, May 2, and make our message go viral.
We are targeting members of the Budget Committee who will have a big impact on what the final budget looks like.
Here’s what you can do:
.@PaulASarlo #PayFair4DirectCare increase wages for DSPs by $1.25/hr in FY18 Budget
.@TonyBucco #PayFair4DirectCare increase wages for DSPs by $1.25/hr in FY18 Budget
.@DeclanOScanlon #PayFair4DirectCare increase wages for DSPs by $1.25/hr in FY18 Budget
Please send this alert to anyone else you believe may be interested in supporting our message and if you’re a community provider organization, please forward this alert to your Direct Support Professional staff members and encourage them to participate.
Looking to Compose Your Own Tweet?
Here are some additional points you may want to use. Just be sure to include our Hashtag #PayFair4DirectCare in all your tweets and remember, Twitter will only let you send messages of 140 characters or less!
• Direct Support Professionals provide critical tasks that allow for community integration but the average starting salary for a DSP is only $10.50 an hour.
• Because of this low wage, provider organizations and families who seek to hire DSPs to care for their loved ones, have a very hard time finding and retaining staff. Service provider agencies report a remarkably high turnover rate of approximately 44% and staff vacancy rates of more than 20%.
• If nothing is done to address this issue, the workforce shortage will continue and individuals with I/DD may lose the very important services they rely on.
Don’t Have a Twitter Account?
If you don’t have a Twitter account, but want to support our advocacy, you can still make your voice heard. Call the offices for the Senate and Assembly Budget Chairmen and let them know you support a $1.25 an hour increase for all DSPs assisting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the FY18 Budget. That’s all you have to say!
• Senator Sarlo (201) 804-8118
• Assemblyman Schaer (973) 249-3665
May 11, 2017
The Department of Human Services Commissioner will now testify before the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday, May 11. This gives the Senate the same opportunity the Assembly had to ask questions and learn more about the Department’s spending plan for Fiscal Year 2018.
As with the Assembly, by filling the Senate Budget Committee Room with supporters, we are showing legislators that this is an important issue that affects many individuals and families across the State. A large crowd sends a message to legislators that a lot of people are paying attention to their actions and the funding priorities in the Budget.
What You Need to Know
- DHS Commissioner Connolly will testify in Committee Room 4 which is located on the 1st floor of the State House Annex, at 10 am.
- We ask you to please arrive by 9:30 am to receive a Coalition button in support of our cause.
- The State House is located at 125 West State Street, Trenton.
- Free parking is available in the State House Garage. Additional garages are located on State Street, but they do not include free parking. Directions and additional parking information can be found here.
- Government ID is required to enter the building and visitors are required to go through security.
If you are interested in attending but do not have transportation, email Slevine@arcnj.org as limited carpooling opportunities may be available.
June 1, 2017
On Twitter Thursday – Tell Legislators to #PayFair4DirectCare
Send Your Tweets on June 1 Representatives from the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage will be at the State House on Thursday, June 1, to advocate with legislators and decision makers as we head into these final weeks of the Fiscal Year. Although you may not be in Trenton on Thursday, you can still play an important role in our advocacy that day by reinforcing our message. Here’s what we need you to do:
1. Log into your Twitter account.
2. Copy and paste the following tweets to Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Prieto
.@NJSenatePres #PayFair4DirectCare – Increase wages for DSPs in the FY18 Budget by $1.25/hr. Ppl w/ I/DD need their direct support staff
.@VincentPrieto #PayFair4DirectCare – Increase wages for DSPs in the FY18 Budget by $1.25/hr. Ppl w/ I/DD need their direct support staff
3. Hit send.
It’s a fast and easy way of communicating our need for a Direct Support Professional wage increase to the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly.
Help us as we fight for increase wages for our Direct Support Professionals! Attendees should meet in the Committee Room 9 on the 3rd floor of the Annex at 9:30am for a DSP Coalition T-shirt, buttons and written materials for the day. Question?
Thursday, June 1 at 9:30am
New Jersey State House,
Committee Room 9, 3rd Floor of the Annex
125 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608
June 5, 2017
DSP Coalition Comes Out in Force for Wage Increase
The Coalition for a DSP Living Wage had a big showing at the State House on Thursday and outreached to at least 50 legislators. This included the Senate President, members of the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees, and Senators and Assembly people from across the State. A BIG thank you to everyone who took the time to join us and help us advocate on this very important issue!
Your Tweets Matter! Senate Pres. Responds to #PayFair4DirectCare Campaign on Twitter
Senate President Sweeney got our tweets and he took the time on Thursday night to respond to our #PayFair4DirectCare campaign which ran throughout the day on June 1, as part of our Twitter Thursday. He thanked everyone for reaching out to him and told his
followers that he is “all in on fighting for this” issue. Click the screenshot above to view the full Tweet. Thank you to everyone who took the time to help us spread the word on social media. Your support makes a difference!