Monroe County lawmakers call on Hochul to boost pay for Early Intervention providers
A coalition of state legislators is calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to raise reimbursement rates for the therapists and teachers providing services to children with developmental delays through the state’s Early Intervention program.
During a news conference Friday, the lawmakers and children’s advocates said the providers are paid less now than when the federally mandated program launched in 1994, and that’s without adjusting for inflation. As a result, it has hemorrhaged providers, leaving 1,000 children waiting for needed services in Monroe County alone, according to Assemblymember Jen Lunsford, a Democrat from Perinton.
“The provider shortage is an issue that we're dealing with across the board,” Lunsford said. “And we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to support these people that are doing critical work for our most at-risk kids.”
Lunsford and members of the local Senate and Assembly delegations were joined by members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, who emphasized that the provider shortage hurts Black and brown families in particular.
The Senate and Assembly have pushed for an increase in early intervention reimbursement rates in the past three budgets. On Friday, the coalition of lawmakers called on Hochul to include an 11% increase in reimbursement rates in her budget proposal for 2024-25. She’ll release that plan in January.
“We hope that the governor hears us and is prepared for a fight, because this is going to be a fight,” said Democratic Sen. Nathalia Fernandez of the Bronx, a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. “Our children come first, and we need to make sure that when it comes to education, we're putting every dollar every penny forward to give them that good path to success.”
The call for Hochul to boost the rates, which vary by service, is bipartisan.
Republican Assemblymember Josh Jensen said he received speech therapy when he was a child, and his son, who just entered kindergarten, also received speech therapy through the Early Intervention program.
“I cannot think of a better and more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars than ensuring that our young people have the services they need, when they need it, how they need it in in the most appropriate way and setting,” Jensen said. “It is cheaper to spend the money today to stop the problem from getting worse in the future. It is clear that early intervention works.”