Demanding Dignity: Caregivers for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities need a living wage

Most Direct Care Providers are women

Direct Service Providers are paid only $11 to $12 per hour.

Family members of Rhode Islanders living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, direct service professionals (DSPs), labor leaders, and legislators are calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation that gives DSPs a living wage. House bill H5338, sponsored by Representative Evan Shanley and co-sponsored by 48 other House members, including Democrats and Republicans, will move DSPs to a $15 minimum wage over the next two years. A companion Senate bill sponsored by Senator Louis DiPalma was introduced Wednesday.

Noelle Siravo spoke to me about her son, an adult male dependent on the care provided by DSPs. “It’s extremely difficult to manage him 24/7 so I look forward to all the support I can get,” said Siravo. The care providers “go above and beyond for the menial amount of money that they make doing this.”

“This act would require certain employers who provide services to people with developmental disabilities to pay their employees no less than $13.77 per hour commencing July 1, 2019 and $15 per hour commencing on July 1, 2020,” reads the legislation. “This wage increase shall be funded by increased appropriations to the department of behavioral healthcare, developmental disabilities, and hospitals.”

“The selfless and dedicated care and work that is delivered by our state’s caregivers is a vital service to some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton). Yet, while these individuals care for our friends and loved ones, they are experiencing tremendous financial hardship resulting from less than adequate wages. It is time that we recognize the valuable contributions they make to our society and give these caregivers the living wage that they deserve.”

“Direct service providers throughout the state provide dedicated high quality services to their consumers but struggle to provide for their own families at home,” said Representative Evan Shanley (Democrat, District 24, Warwick), whose parents met while they were working at the Trudeau Center in Warwick. “I know the importance of the services these workers provide to enrich the lives of their consumers and our community. Rhode Island needs to show that we value the contribution of these workers.”

“Staff are working two and three jobs and still fall short on making ends meet,” said Anna Landolfi, a direct support professional at J Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center. “I work for three additional agencies in order to pay my bills. Staff work short-handed every day. There needs to be adequate compensation for staff that have remained loyal through all of the budget cuts and years of no raises or health benefit increases. There needs to be incentive in order to keep our staff with knowledge of our folks, instead of the constant recycling of new staff. It is confusing and upsetting to our folks every time there is a change of staff. Please, I urge you to pass the DSP wage increase.”

“I love my consumers but believe that for too long Rhode Island has not valued the contribution and work direct support professionals provide,” said Nancy Tumidajski, a Direct Service Professional at Blackstone Valley ARC for 28 Years. “While we help enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities, their communities, and their families, many of my co-workers struggle to provide for their own families when they get home.”

To learn more about this campaign, please visit www.DemandingDignity.com.


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About Steve Ahlquist 902 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com

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