BUFFALO, N.Y. — Fiscal intermediaries like Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL) are fighting for the wage raise their employees say they were promised in April.

WNYIL provides programs and services to help individuals with disabilities maintain their independence. This includes staffing home care professionals, an industry that was promised a $2 per hour wage raise plus fringe starting October 1, 2022 and another dollar next year.

What You Need To Know

  • Home care workers say they were set to receive a $2 an hour wage plus fringe benefits increase starting October 1 from the NYS budget

  • The legislation that passed did not specify exactly how the funds would be distributed to home care workers

  • They say this leaves independent living agencies fighting to get the full wage from insurance companies, and responsible for footing the difference

The agency’s CEO, Doug Usiak, said insurance companies are not all on the same page, and only a handful are passing on the wage in its entirety, others are offering some of it, and some are not offering it at all. However, the agency is still legally required to pay workers the new wage, making it responsible for making up the difference, which puts WNYIL’s other programs at risk.

“I’m losing sleep over it because not only does this impact my administrative staff, and it impacts the personal assistants who everybody knows are underpaid to begin with, and it’s hard to find people to do that job, and most of all it impacts the consumer because we just can’t drop the service,” said Usiak.

Todd Vaarwerk, chief policy officer at WNYIL, said the funds from the state budget go through insurance first because home care is treated more like a medical service than an industry with a wage.

“This is something we’re going to continue to monitor because insurance companies, regardless of where they are in the state, need to recognize that the purpose of that increase was to support aids working with people with disabilities,” said Vaarwerk.

He said the clock is ticking as the agency considers how to redistribute money for the time being without going belly up.

Spectrum News 1 has reached out to state offices and is awaiting comment.