This past Wednesday Spectrum News produced a story about Nicole Graham, a Supervisor at Northern Rivers Family Services. Nicole perfectly laid out the case of why it is so important that there be an 8.5% COLA in this coming year’s Executive Budget.
You can see from the story about how much Nicole and her staff love their work. This is so true of so many in our field but as we know, mission doesn’t pay the rent. We need to increase funding for the sector so that we don’t loss talented and caring people like Nicole and so many in our field to positions in other organizations.
We are less than two months before the State Budget is introduced. We must remain strong and unified in our support of an 8.5% COLA.
More actions to come.
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Behavioral health advocates seek cost of living pay increase
By Arin Cotel-Altman City of Albany
PUBLISHED 1:31 PM ET Nov. 30, 2022
Nicole Graham has been working with kids in the foster care system for more than 20 years.
“I just love what I do, so some days I don’t even feel like I’m at work,” says Nicole Graham, a supervisor at Northern Rivers Family Services.
Northern Rivers is a mental health and foster care agency. Graham is one of the thousands of behavioral healthcare workers across the state calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to include an 8.5% increase in their cost of living adjustment or COLA for the 2024 state budget.
What You Need To Know
Many behavioral healthcare workers statewide want an 8.5% increase in their cost of living adjustment in the 2024 state budget
Human services workers did get a 5.4% COLA pay bump in the last state budget, but Northern Rivers says that was the first in years
Workers are saying with the rise of inflation, that bump was not enough
“The staff deserve it. It’s 24 hours a day. Seven days a week is rewarded,” Graham said. “They give the best that they can give on any given day that they come in. They do a lot of extra overtime. They do a lot of transportation.”
Human services workers did get a 5.4% COLA pay bump in the last state budget, but Northern Rivers says that was the first in years, and with inflation going up, Graham says it’s not enough.
“Gas is high. Food is high. Child care is high. Pretty much half of their paycheck is going on gas,” Graham said.
She also says more money would mean more employee retention, which at the end of the day, only helps the kids.
“There is a high turnover rate in this field,” Graham said, “and I think that if staff was able to get a raise, we can get people to be in the position for more than a year versus six months. And the children deserve people that’s consistent in their life.”
Even though the pay isn’t where she would like to see it, Graham says what gets her out of bed each morning is simple.
“The kids – I ain’t going to lie the kids, the kids I love, the kids got love for me – it’s the only job where you come to work and they literally make you feel like a rock star,” Graham said.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to the governor’s office and asked if she was considering the increase in her next budget and they responded with this statement:
“Governor Hochul advanced and enacted billions in significant cost-of-living increases and unprecedented supports in this year’s budget. Any request for additional support will be taken into consideration as she develops her executive budget for FY2024, which will be released early next year.”