Jesse and I were recently discussing his role as an advocate recently when we met.  He takes his role as an advocate for himself and for other people with disabilities seriously. He knows that with a swipe of a politician’s pen, life for him and others can change in an instant. It is why making his voice heard is not something he does only on occasion or during the budget process, it is something he tries to build into his life. 

“'Be Fair to Direct Care!’ has been our motto for years,” Jesse said. “We can’t keep having such turnover. We need funding to support us and our staff.”

The advocacy has made a difference. Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced that $1.5 billion has been earmarked to support the careers of direct support professionals. This money will support recruitment and will pay incentives to keep and reward long-term staff.  There is also a plan to give bonuses  to staff who have gotten vaccinated.  

“I’m mighty glad Governor Hochul did this,” Jesse said. “I don’t want my staff to leave their jobs and find other jobs in the community that pay more. People with disabilities are glad. We’re happy the staff that support us are being respected for their work.”

Jesse was part of a team that started a campaign that involved letter-writing, phone calls and in-person visits with legislators.

“Governor Hochul listened to us through our letters, phone calls and advocacy with our legislators. Each method of education and advocacy was impactful,” Jesse said.

The self-advocates know the work isn’t over and that advocacy is a life-long process. This victory is proof of what can be accomplished when people put their voices together.

“I want to thank Governor Hochul.  She cared,  listened and took action.   This is a great first step. We have to keep the momentum moving,” Jesse said.  "Keep up your advocacy, please and thank you!"

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