Now Reading: Why Raising The Minimum Wage Can Be Bad For Special Needs Families

Why Raising The Minimum Wage Can Be Bad For Special Needs Families

Ok, so I live in New York State & work in New York City.  And this post talks a lot about things that are happening in NY.

If you don’t live in NY, please don’t tune out yet, because this same battle & special needs issues will probably be coming to your state soon.  So please pay attention.

So, for the past few years workers in the fast food industry in NYC & NYS have been banding together and pushing for a $15 minimum wage for Fast Food workers.

The thinking is that at the current minimum wage, last year in NYS it was $8.75, any worker who worked full time (40 hours a week) in the fast food industry was making just over $18,000 a year and therefore living under the poverty level.  And WAY under the poverty level if they lived in NYC, one of the most expensive places to live in the country.
Now I never want to get too much into my political leanings on my Autism Daddy page.  However, back in 2012 I did write a post on who I was voting for for president & why (read here) so if you’ve been with me for a while you know where I stand. 🙂
Anyway, without getting too much into my politics, when I first heard that the fast food workers were  banding together and requesting / demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage my knee jerk reaction was “good for them!  that’s a really tough job.  McDonald’s and the others are making billions of dollars.  bringing the little guys up to a living wage won’t put much of a dent into their profits.”
And then it was passed in July 2015 in NYS.  A slow increase to the minimum wage for fast food workers that would have workers up to $15 an hour by 2018 in NYC & 2021 in the rest of NYS.

And then I heard some friends with special needs kids grumbling & complaining about that minimum wage increase.  And not for some of the political reasons that many of you are thinking about.

The special needs parents who were complaining were grumbling over the fact that if only fast food workers get the increase, then that means that many people who work with our special needs kids and adults in day camps, special needs programs, swimming programs, respite workers, direct support professionals will have to choose between working at taco Bell for $15 an hour with their friends or working with the special needs community for considerably less.

I’ve recently written about how called “A Salute to Young Adults That Work w/ Special Needs Kids & Adults” where I talk about how great some of these people are, and how I wouldn’t want to do this when I was a kid.  And many of these young people fall in love with the work of helping the special needs community.

However, when these young adults first entered the workforce if they were out there looking for work and saw McD’s at $15 an hour, and working as a respite worker for a special needs kid at $13 an hour which one would they choose?  This next generation of young people may never have the chance to fall in love with the work of helping the special needs community if faced with that choice.

Then in November 2015 NYS Governor Cuomo increased the minimum wage for all NYS employees using the same schedule laid out above for the fast food workers.

The job categories affected most by this include lifeguards, office assistants and custodial staff.  And for the most part this increase still doesn’t help or impact the low paid people that work with our special needs community.

So, now of course, the push is to bring that $15 minimum wage to all employees who work in New York State, not just fast food workers and those that are specifically state employees.  And Governor Cumomo has outlined a plan.  And the Democrats & Republicans are battling it out for all the issues you’d expect.

But on paper that is what I want.  A level playing field.   A $15 an hour minimum wage for all people who work in New York state.  That’s the whole point of a minimum wage.  It should be the same minimum across all industries and jobs in my opinion.

However, if the $15 minimum wage passes for all people who work in NYS it still could negatively impact special needs families.  Here’s why.

Many of the direct support workers who work with our special needs communities are employed through agencies.  And a huge portion of their salaries are paid for by Medicaid.  However, in the current wage increase plans there’s no plans to increase the Medicaid reimbursement for these agencies.

There was a great op-ed piece in the Times Union newspaper (from Albany, NY) earlier this month that explains way better than I can this problem and this “serious flaw” in the governor’s plan.  Here us the short article in its entirety.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $15 minimum wage contains a serious flaw that threatens the financial viability of an entire field of caregivers and the people and families those caregivers support.

While the governor has appropriately decided that New York needs to champion the rights of hard-working, low-income wage earners by requiring a higher minimum wage, he has not provided any funding for the many not-for-profit agencies that depend almost completely on the state for their funding. Among the 2.3 million workers who stand to benefit from a minimum wage increase are more than 100,000 workers who provide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and neurological impairments. No funding is provided for this increase.

With close to 30,000 employees statewide, NYSARC Inc. (  is the largest not-for-profit organization in the state dedicated to serving people with developmental and other disabilities and their families.

We support and serve approximately 60,000 people in every county. We’d love to give all our employees raises. But the hard fact is that 90 percent of our funding comes from Medicaid, a federal-state program that helps pay for services for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children. Without an increase in Medicaid reimbursement for the services we provide, a raise is impossible.

This unfunded wage increase threatens to bankrupt the very field in which these dedicated support professionals earn a living helping people in need. As a result, many support professionals could lose their jobs and many people could be left without the services they need to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives. Unlike for-profit businesses, which can increase the price of their products and services to offset wage increases, not-for-profit agencies must count on the governor and the Legislature to increase wages through provider rate increases in the budget.

Without a Medicaid rate increase, providers will need to absorb $270 million in increased labor costs the first year and $1.7 billion by 2021. Such an unfunded expense would be devastating for the developmental disabilities field — a field already struggling to adapt to newly revised reimbursement methodologies that have caused tremendous financial hardship.

On behalf of hundreds of providers statewide and the tens of thousands of individuals and families we support, we urge Cuomo in his 30-day amendments, and the Legislature in their budget bills, to meet the state’s statutory obligation to support people with disabilities and properly fund these wage hikes for the not-for-profit developmental disabilities service sector. Surely funding can be found in a $145 billion state budget for this vital state responsibility.  

written by Laura Kennedy, president NYSARC, Inc. and Steven Kroll, executive director NYSARC, Inc.

Anyway, so that’s about it.  That’s about all I’ve got to say.   I’ve been educated of all the flaws of the increase in the $15 minimum wage.  And it seems that at seemingly every turn it will negatively affect special needs families and the low paid people that choose to work with special needs families.  And I just wanted to make you all aware.

So what can you do?  Well if you live in New York State you can do call or write your legislators and use the language below.  I cut & pasted this from the NYSARC website at  .

And if you don’t live in NYS you can just remember this post and be educated and aware of the flaws for when the minimum wage increase discussions come to your state (and they will and they should!) .

So my parting shot is I think increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour in and around NYC is totally justifiable.  I cant speak for upsate NY, but the costs of living around here are insane and exorbitant and the current minimum wage is a joke for this area of the state.  So I’m all for a $15 an hour increase… but only if it’s done properly & fairly where people don’t lose their jobs or have to choose fast food work over special needs work.

Anyway, that’s my stance and I’m sticking to it!

Ok, so if you live in NY State this is what you need to do ASAP.




Governor Cuomo has proposed a $15 minimum wage for all workers but has failed to put funding in for Direct Support Professionals, special education staff, and other low-wage workers whose rate is set by the State. The Governor had the opportunity to provide the funding in his 30-day budget amendments which came out on Feb. 12 but did not do so.
He and the Legislature MUST fund his proposed minimum wage increase in the final budget, which is due Friday, April 1.


Everyone needs to CALL OR WRITE the Governor and your Senator and Assemblymember today!
ACT NOW or it will be too late!  Tell them that they must fund any minimum wage increase in their final budget agreement!


  • “Governor Cuomo and the Legislature MUST fund the proposed $15 minimum wage in the final state budget due by April 1. Funding is critical to the health, safety and well-being of people with developmental disabilities and it’s the right thing to do for the people who work tirelessly caring for them.”
Call the Governor at (518) 474 -1041 
and press 3 to speak to an assistant.
  • Senate switchboard – (518) 455 – 2800 – and ask for your Senator. You can find your Senator at  Urge your Senator to Call the Governor and tell him to fund his $15 minimum wage. 
  • Assembly switchboard (518) 455-4100 – and ask for your Assemblymember.  You can find your Assemblymember at  Urge your Assemblymember to Call the Governor and tell him to fund his $15 minimum wage.
To  use the  IAC  website to automatically send emails and  find your local legislators to tell the Governor to fund his minimum wage proposal, please click here.
Printed letters can also be generated.  Send letters to: 
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224 
Once you click the link, click on the box that says “Take Action Now.” If you want printed letters, click the circle on the right next to “printed letters,” then fill in the sender information.
Please have staff, families, and everyone call or send letters to the Governor, your local legislators, and your local newspaper.  
It is especially important that the Governor hear from Direct Support Professionals, Education staff, and other low-wage workers who support people with developmental disabilities.
Share this webpage with everyone! As a constituent, you are very important to the Governor and your elected officials and you must tell them what is important to you NOW.

Ok, so if you live in NY State this is what you need to do ASAP.

That’s it!  THE END!
Autism Daddy Over & Out!


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Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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