Advocates for people with developmental disabilities are concerned the second COVID-19 spike is hurting the retention and recruitment of direct support staff for programs in New York. 

In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent this week, a coalition of organizations that provide services to the vulnerable population wrote this could have a wide-ranging effect on the people who benefit the most from having direct support staff. 

They wrote the "foundation is literally crumbling underneath us as the pandemic thrusts even more weight on it."

To that end, the Cuomo administration is being urged to establish a recruitment and retention fund for direct support staff, provide one-time payments to aid organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic, and take pressure off groups for losing reimbursement when someone temporarily leaves to live with their family. 

"Lives are being threatened given the vulnerability of the population being served and the lack of staff to care for these individuals," the letter states.

"We strongly believe that potential tragedies can be averted if New York State, along with its partners in the field, are proactive. In order to address this crisis, we offer the following recommendations, which taken together, can start to provide the temporary relief needed to make it through the winter COVID-19 surge."

Direct care providers were among the health care workers who were given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the first phase of the rollout.