NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Caregivers in group homes for the developmentally disabled nurture some of New York’s most vulnerable. But now their salaries could be pinched as the budget is worked out in Albany.

Families say it could have serious consequences, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Monday.

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Harvey Weisenberg of Long Beach sat on the boardwalk bench dedicated to his developmentally disabled son, Ricky.

“The angel is my special child who could never speak or cry, and now he’s blind, but gives love,” Weisenberg said.

The unconditional love from Ricky is especially poignant now that his mother, Ellen, has died.

The caregiver Ricky depended on in his group home left for a better paying job, said Weisenberg, a former New York assemblyman.

“Give our people, who have the most difficult job in the world, a living wage,” he said.

Many want the state to provide a higher living wage to retain experienced workers who feed, wash and nurture the most vulnerable.

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But it’s difficult to compete with big box stores now that the minimum wage is $15 an hour, said Thomas McAlvanah, president of New York Disabilities Advocates.

“The workforce, over 70% are women. Over 50% are people of color… a turnover rate of 36.2%… is just so alarming… The salary just does not keep up with their needs,” McAlvanah said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a 1% cut in Medicaid funding and deferring a 1% cost of living adjustment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state senate and assembly’s counter budget proposals would restore the cost of living adjustment, and restore the governor’s cut in Medicaid funding to help pay operators of nonprofit group homes.

The state received more than $12 billion in aid from Washington. Advocates want some of that for caregivers.

Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for the New York State Division of the Budget said, “specific funding restorations… will be done in consultation with the Legislature over the course of budget negotiations.”

“People are more important than the projects that they’re spending federal money on,” said Weisenberg.

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36,000 New Yorkers, like Ricky, live in group homes with complex needs that their caregivers are able, for now, to provide.

Jennifer McLogan