Supporting and Strengthening the Direct Support Workforce


Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the backbone of the OPWDD service system, and targeted investments are needed to recruit, train, and retain the professionals needed to improve the experience and outcomes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Especially during the pandemic, DSPs provided critical care that kept people healthy and safe. OPWDD is dedicating roughly 76 percent of its ARPA funds to the following initiatives, which are proposed to acknowledge the work of these DSPs, support retention and enhance workforce skills and capacity.

  • IDD Workforce Incentives and Bonuses
  • DSP Workforce Development Grants
  • Workforce Recruitment Initiative
  • Expansion of OPWDD Workforce Development Initiatives
  • Modernization of OPWDD’s Recruitment and Training Infrastructure

Workforce Incentives and Bonuses

  • Heroes Fund and COVID-19 Vaccination Bonus

The Heroes Fund will grant supplemental, one-time payments to DSPs and Family Care Providers who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently employed in the OPWDD service system. OPWDD will issue a payment of $1,000 per full-time DSP or Family Care Provider who worked at least a 90-day period during the period of 3/17/2020 to 9/1/2021 and continues to be employed by the provider agency/employer.  OPWDD will also issue an additional bonus of $500 to each of these workers who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Longevity and Retention Bonuses

Due to the workforce vacancy and turnover rates in the field of direct support, as well as the overall workforce shortages that many employers are experiencing, additional compensation is needed to retain workers and enhance direct service as a career choice. OPWDD will use enhanced FMAP funds to provide supplemental payments in the form of a Longevity and Retention Bonus; each bonus is equivalent to a 20 percent increase in reported DSP payroll costs.

OPWDD will issue supplemental, one-time payments to service providers based on cost data and the providers’ attestation that all funds will be paid to qualified workers.

There will be two bonuses available:

  1. Longevity Bonus – This bonus will be available to DSPs and Family Care Providers covering the period of time between 4/1/2020 and 3/31/2021.
  2. Retention Bonus – This bonus will be prospective and available to DSPs and Family Care Providers covering the period of time between 4/1/2021 and 3/31/2022.

Agencies qualify for the supplemental payments if they delivered Home and Community-Based Waiver services between March 17, 2020 and September 1, 2021. Providers that submitted claims for retainer payments only during this time are not eligible for the bonus payments.

The Heroes Fund and the Longevity and Retention bonus payments will support DSPs and Family Care Providers who worked during the pandemic and remain employed in the OPWDD service system. The payments are available for workers employed by the service providers directly or who work for people with developmental disabilities through the Self-Direction program.

OPWDD is also actively working to mirror these investments in the direct support workforce who provide Medicaid services in other programs such as ICFs and day treatment.

OPWDD held a webinar on 12/2/21 to share details about the Appendix K Waiver amendment approval related to the ARPA workforce bonuses and incentives.

View Webinar


Technical Webinar on eFMAP Supplemental Payments
Technical Webinar on Calculations of Workforce Stabilization Longevity and Retention Payments

Workforce Development Grants

OPWDD will use a portion of the ARPA funds to offer grant programs that support the development of the direct support workforce.

Credentialing Grants Funding

This program will dedicate a portion of the ARPA funds to foster credentialing for DSPs employed by Home and Community-Based Waiver Service providers. Providers may apply for grant funding to implement or expand workforce credentialing by the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals or the New York State Department of Labor DSP Apprenticeship. Details on participation eligibility will be forthcoming.

Expansion of OPWDD Workforce Development Initiatives

Recruitment Grants Funding 
Statewide DSP Education/Marketing/Recruitment Initiative

OPWDD will dedicate a portion of its ARPA funds to the development of a statewide DSP recruitment/retention analysis and a multi-platform, statewide marketing program to promote the DSP profession. The project will include analysis of effective marketing methods for target audiences and distinct regions of the state, development of statewide and regional marketing strategies, creation of marketing materials and tools to increase job candidates and development of a variety of delivery methods, as well as collection of data to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative and its materials.

Workforce Innovation Grants

To improve the competency and skills of the workforce, OPWDD will issue grants that implement innovative strategies and create positive workforce outcomes. Focus will be on proposals that implement data-driven strategies for recruitment, including efforts that acknowledge and incorporate the opinions and suggestions from the direct support workforce. Projects that are sustainable and result in positive, long-term impacts for the workforce will be preferred. Under this grant program, entities may apply for two types of innovation grants: Recruitment and Retention Innovation grants and Workforce Development Innovation grants. Additional information on requirements will be forthcoming.

Modernizing OPWDD’s Recruitment and Training Infrastructure

OPWDD will devote a portion of its ARPA funds to a statewide upgrade at each local OPWDD office to professionalize the experience of direct support candidates during recruiting and onboarding and training new and current DSPs.

Attestation Form