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Trudeau Protests Budget Cuts

 

Press Release

For immediate release:  December 15, 2011

Advocates and Support Workers for the Developmentally Disabled Offer a Christmas Wish List

Workers from three agencies that support those with developmental disabilities presented their Christmas Wish List to House Finance Committee Chair Helio Melo. The General Assembly cut the agencies $24 million of state support last year, causing cuts in services and cuts to workers. These agencies have seen no increase in reimbursements from the State since 2005.

This year the General Assembly chose to slash services to the developmentally disabled by $24 million dollars while preserving tax breaks for the very wealthy and large multi-state corporations. Community based agencies throughout the state have already begun layoffs and cutting wages and benefits to a group of workers that is already underpaid for the noble services they provide. Cutting direct care staff and programs directly impacts the quality of life and services those consumers and their families have come to reply upon.

Lewis Kelley, a Direct Support Professional at the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center and an AFT member said “All we are asking is that the Assembly show how much they care about those who care for others.”…”It is a sad day for some of my co-workers who care for others in their homes when they lose their own homes because of the Assembly’s cuts over the years.”

A long time Seven Hills employee and UNAP member, Michelle Armstrong, asks of legislative leaders “How can the legislative leaders ask so little of those with the most, the wealthiest Rhode Islanders, and at the same time demand so much of those with so little, the developmentally disabled and those who provide direct care at less than $11.00 per hour?”

Because of these cuts Rhode Island is cutting hourly wages reimbursements for direct care staff by nearly 9%. In July, 2011, after absorbing $9.5 million of the $24 million budget cut, the State set reimbursements for Direct Care Workers at $12.03 per hour. The recently revised rate effective January 1, 2012 is $10.98. This budget choice made by the General Assembly is undermining the delivery of services to individuals with developmental disabilities and pushing workers already making low to modest incomes into poverty.

Noelle Siravo, a parent of a consumer said, “The deep cuts are already impacting dedicated staff at my son’s program. Forcing underpaid workers to work fewer hours, take a cut in pay and benefits, or be laid-off, disrupts the quality of services offered at these programs that myself and 3,600 other families have come to rely upon.”

Kristine DiNicola, a direct care staffer and 1199 NE SEIU member at the ARC of Blackstone Valley hoped the General Assembly would make a New Year’s resolution. “My co-workers and I can only do so much with the resources we are given. The General Assembly made a mistake that is hurting lots of people, now they need to fix it.”

Featured speakers of the press conference summarized their Christmas wish list.

  • Hold hearings to investigate the impact low reimbursements and the $24 million budget cut have had on client services
  • Restore the $24 million in cuts retroactive to last year
  • Boost revenue to support the neediest with higher income taxes on the richest
  • Include direct care staff, who have deep relationships with consumers and their families, at the table when making policy decision affecting developmental disability services.