What is brief history on the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Human Services?Over a dozen years ago, the State and the Legislature supported a statutory COLA for the human service sector. Over that period, there were many times when that language was not withstood, meaning that the COLAs were not included in the Governor’s Executive Budget. There have been times over that time period that there were increases (notably there were several years where there was funding increases for direct care and clinical staff) but many years where there were no increases at all. This has resulted in a shortfall of over $500 million to our sector.
What is the final human service COLA in this year’s State Budget?
There is a 5.4% increase for a COLA in the State Budget based on the Consumer Price Index. This was in Governor Hochul’s original budget proposal and we were very pleased to see that proposal in place. We cannot understate the importance of the inclusion of the COLA in the final budget. This is the largest one year COLA we have received in over fifteen
years and we are appreciative of the Governor’s leadership. Our goal was to advocate for increasing that number throughout the process. Unfortunately that did not happen.
Who qualifies for this increase?
All OMH, OASAS and OPWDD programs as well as certain other human services programs funded by DOH, OTDA and OCFS
What about Health Home Care Managers licensed by the Department of Health?
Unfortunately, DOH health home programs were not part of the human service COLA. However Health Home Plus which is designated by OMH were included in the final COLA
Were there other human service sectors not included in the COLA?
We are still meeting with our colleagues to determine other entities that did not qualify
How will the COLAs be dispersed?
There will be flexibility given to agencies to determine how to utilize the COLAs. For example, some agencies may choose to utilize it specifically for workforce while others may choose to identify it to help defray costs of running the agency (i.e.—pay for health insurance cost, fuel costs, etc.)
When will the funding be distributed?
This is still to be determined. The State has already issued Federal Public Notice of the intent to submit State Plans to update the rates for the COLA. In addition, OMH is in the process of updating contracts to get funding out as soon as possible as I am sure the other agencies are as well.
What are the plans for the future of the COLA?
Our united advocacy across all sectors have helped to pave the way for the 5.4% increase. Though we were unable to increase the number in the final budget, the unprecedented show of support across the human service sector has dramatically raised public awareness. Moving forward, we will advocate that the COLA CPI will be in the budget as a floor and not a ceiling for the united advocacy of our sector.
How do I stay informed of future advocacy efforts?
You can sign up for the MHANYS updates at www.mhanys.org and you can also sign up for twitter @MHANYSCEO
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