Direct Support Professionals Overlooked for Wage Increases by Governor and Legislature

By Jordan Lindsey, Executive Director, The Arc / UCP California Collaboration

For the second time in two weeks, Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Legislature, and labor unions have significantly increased wages for an industry while neglecting to do the same for the California workforce supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families.  On Friday Governor Newsom signed SB 525 into law which will raise wages to $25 per hour for 450,000 workers in healthcare settings.  This followed last week’s agreement to do the same for workers in the fast-food industry.  Meanwhile, California’s 100,000 direct support professionals (DSPs), who heroically support people with developmental disabilities in community, residential and facility-based settings, earn wages between $16-$20 per hour without any guarantee of increases.

At the signing of SB 525, Tia Orr, the executive director of SEIU California, stated “Today California is putting a stop to the hemorrhaging of our care workforce by ensuring health care workers can do the work they love and pay their bills – a huge win for workers and patients seeking care.”  While The Arc & UCP California Collaboration celebrates the improved wages in the healthcare space, we want to make it clear that the hemorrhaging of the DSP workforce continues and has direct negative impacts to more than 400,000 Californians with developmental disabilities and their familiesRaising wages in other industries will further that hemorrhaging unless the Governor, Legislature, and labor unions fight for a similar increase in wages for workers that support Californians with developmental disabilities.

Workers in both the fast-food and healthcare industries will enjoy an increase in wages every year due to these latest agreements that include an annual wage increase at the lesser of 3.5% or the annual increase in the consumer price index.  DSP wages, however, are based on a rate study from 2019 that hasn’t yet been fully implemented and doesn’t include any annual increases, and wages for regional center services coordinators, who provide critical case management for individuals with developmental disabilities, are based on a formula that was last updated in 2001.  Updating these wages and including annual increases must occur this next legislative session, otherwise a community already struggling due to the shortage of workers may never catch up and get the services and supports they were promised in the Lanterman Act.

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