Bay Ridge

Guild for Exceptional Children director wins pay raises for workers

April 4, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Executive Director and CEO Paul Cassone and Board Chairperson Arlene Rutuelo are relieved that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have pledged to include funding in the budget to give direct support workers raises. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

Cuomo vows higher salaries for employees helping disabled

The executive director of a Bay Ridge nonprofit agency that helps the developmentally disabled said his employees who work directly with clients will be getting much-needed raises now that lawmakers have promised to put money in the state budget to cover the costs.

Paul Cassone, executive director and CEO of the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC), said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly have stated that the budget currently under negotiation in Albany will likely include $55 million to help raise the salaries of Direct Support Providers (DSPs), workers who provide care for individuals with developmental disabilities at the GEC and other agencies.

Workers from the GEC joined their colleagues from other agencies at rallies in recent months in which participants called on state officials to come up with funding to provide pay increases.

The most recent rally in Albany on March 28 turned into a celebration after it was learned that Cuomo and legislative leaders asserted their support for the addition of funds to increase salaries for direct care workers.

“DSPs hold the lives of vulnerable New Yorkers in their hands,” Cassone said. “They need to have the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job, but up to now, they have been paid less than clerks at Key Food. Enough is enough. I am in full support of the measures announced today and thankful to our assembly and senate representatives and Gov. Cuomo.”

Headquartered at 260 68th St. in Bay Ridge, the GEC provides housing, education and job training for developmentally disabled people in Brooklyn.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) was among several Brooklyn lawmakers who supported the proposal to give workers a raise in pay.

“This is a victory for our nonprofit organizations like The Guild for Exceptional Children, our hardworking direct care workers who deserve to be paid a fair wage and those with developmental disabilities. Including the extra funding in the budget will mean providers will be able to retain experienced staff and families can have peace of mind that their loved ones are being cared for by professionals,” Malliotakis said.

Cassone said the strong support of lawmakers like Malliotakis and others, including state Sens. Marty Golden and Diane Savino and Assemblymembers Peter Abbate, Pamela Harris and Felix Ortiz, meant a great deal in the effort to win pay raises for workers.

“Their support of these critical workers went a long way toward convincing the leadership, and the governor himself, that this was their time to be recognized and to be given the opportunity to earn a fair living wage,” Cassone said.