Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/nonprofit-human-services-sector 2018-09-23T22:12:03+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Added Scrutiny of City’s Delinquent Contracting Practices 2018-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7748:added-scrutiny-of-city-s-delinquent-contracting-practices Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cm-stephlevin-ant-reynoso.jpg" alt="cm stephlevin ant reynoso" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Levin (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The new city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> does not do enough to address the tremendous backlog of city contracts with nonprofit groups that have been left languishing by city agencies, the groups say. This comes after a recent <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> from the city comptroller that shows 81 percent of new and renewed contracts were registered retroactively, meaning after their start date, last fiscal year. Human services were the most affected, with more than 90 percent of contracts in this category submitted retroactively to the comptroller’s office by city agencies, half of them late by six months or more.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council recently agreed to a $89.2 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Though it continues to increase spending at various city agencies that rely on human services nonprofits, there is no accompanying deal to address the rampant contracting delays across city agencies.</p> <p>The problem of contract delays affects cash flow and services to the public, and also compounds other issues, such as contracts not accounting enough for overhead expenses, that together contribute to a financial crisis for many organizations that the city contracts with to provide vital services from homeless shelters to after school programs.</p> <p>“It needs to be a priority of this administration to fix the backlog in contract registration and also the significant amount of contract amendments that are pending from investments the city made last year: money that was announced on July 1 of 2017 that providers still have not gotten in June of 2018,” said Michelle Jackson, spokesperson for the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group (HSASG), in an interview last week. The group, which consists of nine associations and represents some 2,000 human services provider organizations in New York City, will be testifying at a City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=605915&amp;GUID=E847EE2B-9412-4205-B4B2-D7FE144D23D8&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">oversight hearing</a> on the issue at City Hall this Thursday, June 21. “There really needs to be a focus on getting all of those amendments and registrations up to date,” Jackson added.</p> <p>The delay in the city’s procurement process means vendors -- predominately nonprofits in the human services sector -- are forced to either fund their own work while they wait for the city to register and approve their contracts, or delay starting operations entirely. For providers waiting to have their contracts renewed, Jackson said, “they have to just keep operating the service because you don’t just send all the kids home, you don’t kick everyone out of the shelter. It’s not like a construction project where you can just wait to get all your documents signed…Nonprofits are taking a real fiscal and legal liability by waiting for these contracts.”</p> <p>It’s a system in “dire need of reform,” according to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, Stringer’s spokesperson added: “One of city government’s most important jobs is delivering services to New Yorkers in need – that’s why fixing the city procurement process is urgent and essential. Providing services to our most vulnerable residents depends on our ability to execute social service contracts expediently.”</p> <p>The next step in addressing the issue is this week’s hearing of the City Council Committees on Contracts and General Welfare at City Hall, which will be co-chaired by Brooklyn Council Members Justin Brannan and Stephen Levin, the respective chairs of those committees. The “process has to be sped up,” Levin said.</p> <p>“These providers are operating at significant deficit and often we engage with providers that are doing a lot of the work that we would like to see providers do, and they are doing it on their own fundraising,” Levin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The backlog is also putting pressure on the city’s Returnable Grant Fund, a revolving fund providing interest-free loans to nonprofits. February testimony from Acting Chair of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, Dan Symon, to the City Council was referenced in the comptroller’s report, claiming the Fund processed 751 loans for nonprofits in fiscal year 2017 as a “direct result of delayed contract awards.” The combined total of these loans was $149.9 million.</p> <p>“We need to make sure we are providing services equitably across the board,” Levin said. “That when you go to shelter you’re not just lucking out in getting into a good provider or a provider that’s has the ability to raise significant money versus a provider that can’t. That’s not an equitable system.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and his administration were widely criticized following the release of Stringer’s report, with questions raised about the progressive mayor’s commitment to human services organizations and their clients. The issues raised by the comptroller’s report are longstanding and nonprofits groups and their supporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">have been lobbying city government to improve the process for sometime</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, a City Hall spokesperson said the mayor’s office has been working to reduce contracting backlogs and that model budgets -- a system introduced this year designed to increase rates for providers funded below what is considered the ‘model’ to deliver appropriate service -- will help these departments fulfil their administrative duties to outside contractors. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We’ve invested more than a quarter-billion new dollars annually in our shelter provider partners to address decades of disinvestment and reform outdated rates they were paid for many years,” the spokesperson said. “We have also been working closely with these vital partners to resolve inherited contracting backlogs, implement model budgets for the first time ever, and address any outstanding challenges they may have to ensure they can deliver the services our neighbors in need deserve as they get back on their feet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to this work in resolving contracting issues, the City Hall spokesperson said this year is the first time in recent memory that providers will be operating with registered current contracts. As of May 2018, 97 percent of fiscal year 2018 contracts are registered and active, with only one contract still at the comptroller’s office and another contract pending provider budget submission.</p> <p>According to the comptroller’s report, the seven city agencies that contract for the majority of human service programs are: the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Youth &amp; Community Development (DYCD), Department for the Aging (DFTA), Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Human Resources Administration (HRA), and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).</p> <p>All of these departments submitted more than half of their registration and renewal contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year. DHS and HRA submitted 100 percent of these contracts retroactively, and the DOE was at 99.8 percent of registration and renewal contracts submitted after their start date. In HRA’s case, more than 60 percent of retroactive contracts were submitted to the comptroller’s office more than six months after the contract was due to start.</p> <p>Despite the backlog, some departments are set to receive less funding in fiscal year 2019 than in the current, soon-to-end fiscal year, according to the city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> that was released on Monday June 12.</p> <p>DYCD, for example, is receiving about $121 million less in funding via the city budget this financial year, yet of 859 registered or renewed contracts it received last year, 795 (92.5 percent) were submitted retroactively, according to the comptroller’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. Similarly, DOHMH is allocated $112 million less in fiscal 2019 than it was in 2018, and of 314 new and renewed contracts it handled last fiscal year, 265 (or 84.4 percent) were submitted after their start date.</p> <p>When asked if the budget has allocated enough resources to these city agencies that are struggling with contracting, Council Member Brannan said: “This is something we intend to discuss at the hearing on the 21st, both from the administration side as well as what the providers think. I am committed to working with the Speaker, Administration, as well as the Comptroller, to ensure we are processing contracts in as swift a manner as possible so that vital services are not being jeopardized due to procedural snafus that can be remedied.”</p> <p>“I hope that through our hearing we can shed light on the administration’s progress implementing model budgeting across different agencies as well as seeing how the providers are faring with model budgeting,” Brannan added. &nbsp;</p> <p>DHS and the DOE, which respectively submitted 100 percent and 99.8 percent of contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year, are both receiving an increase in funding for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the city’s preliminary budget, DHS is receiving more than $183 million in additional funding compared to the current fiscal year and DOE is budgeted an additional $1.2 billion.</p> <p>Speaking to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Levin said the Council’s preliminary budget hearing with DHS dealt largely with where the increased funding is going and he is confident the additional funding will help the agency in improving contract delays.</p> <p>“In our preliminary budget hearing with DHS, we did talk a lot about where a lot of the increased funding is going and they spoke a lot about the model budget contract,” Levin said. “So we’re expecting that it should be able to be covered in the significant increases in budget year-over-year in DHS. I have every expectation that they’ll be able to be covered it for sure. And if they’re not, there’s opportunities to do budget modifications.”</p> <p>“We need a system that’s set up that can afford the services that we need to provide for over 60,000 people in shelter ...” Levin continued. “We need to make sure that the providers are funded enough so that they can provide adequate services.”</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer's report makes two recommendations for improving the processing of contracts within city agencies: to stipulate deadlines for every agency that handles contract applications and to implement a transparent tracking system for vendors to follow their applications through the process. But the report also describes an extremely cumbersome system, weighed down in bureaucracy, in which up to five departments sometimes will handle a contract before it reaches the comptroller’s office -- the only agency with a deadline, which is 30 days -- where it is ultimately approved or kicked back to city agencies for more processing.</p> <p>“What we’re looking at now is 100 percent late registration [from some departments] and what’s going to happen today and tomorrow to get that fixed?” Jackson, of the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group, said, adding that while she “absolutely agrees” with the comptroller’s recommendations, “a tracking system and a timeline are not going to fix the backlog” already in existence.</p> <p>The HSASG is calling for a “SWAT Team” to immediately help clear the backlog, as well as allocation and recognition of this in the budget. Jackson said the group is asking for an additional $200 million to human services, not only to fix the contracting delays, but to also go to areas such as benefits, insurance, and occupancy costs.</p> <p>“A lot of these contracts don’t have cost escalators, and obviously in New York City rent goes up every year (a lot of expenses go up), and there’s not a way to capture that,” Jackson said. “Of course we were disappointed to not see further investment in the sector but we appreciate it’s a long-term investment that needs to be made.”</p> <p>Brannan said he “supports the recommendations” laid out in the comptroller’s report and that he is “working with the Comptroller’s office to come up with potential legislative fixes that would provide for agencies to process city contracts within a much more reasonable period of time.” He said he’s spoken to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services about next phases in rolling out the city’s Procurement and Sourcing Solutions Portal (PASSPort), saying it “in theory should significantly reduce procurement delays.”</p> <p>The spokesperson from City Hall also said the planned updates to PASSport will “make it easier for agencies to order and pay for goods off centralized contracts.” The system, which was initially launched in August 2017, will be updated with “phase two” in 2019 and “phase three” will launch approximately one year later to “enable online bidding and invoice management for all agencies,” the spokesperson said. &nbsp;</p> <p>New York City isn’t the first city to require urgent and comprehensive procurement reform. A 2005 report by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) on fixing that city’s similarly “slow and burdensome” contracting system provided the administration with a range of recommendations that might be applicable in New York City today. These included, not only fixed deadlines for every department and a transparent tracking system, but also recommendations to increase public information and awareness of the city’s contracting system; allow simultaneous review by agencies; develop clear and explicit procedures for fast-tracking contracts; and use a post-audit approach to test compliance by departments, instead of every single contract moving through the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>There is no indication of any other measures being taken to address the contracting backlog in New York City, though the City Hall spokesperson said: “We are continuously looking to improve our practices to also realize timely procurement.”</p> <p>More ideas will likely be raised at Thursday’s Council hearing, but for those in the nonprofit sector, the fiscal year 2019 budget was the perfect place for the city to demonstrate its understanding of, and commitment to solving, the problem. “We would have liked to see it in the budget, even if it was just a statement about how to get all this money out the door,” Jackson said. “I think there needs to be a real recognition that this is a priority to fix the registration process and it needs to happen right away.”</p> <p>

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by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cm-stephlevin-ant-reynoso.jpg" alt="cm stephlevin ant reynoso" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Levin (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The new city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> does not do enough to address the tremendous backlog of city contracts with nonprofit groups that have been left languishing by city agencies, the groups say. This comes after a recent <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> from the city comptroller that shows 81 percent of new and renewed contracts were registered retroactively, meaning after their start date, last fiscal year. Human services were the most affected, with more than 90 percent of contracts in this category submitted retroactively to the comptroller’s office by city agencies, half of them late by six months or more.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council recently agreed to a $89.2 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Though it continues to increase spending at various city agencies that rely on human services nonprofits, there is no accompanying deal to address the rampant contracting delays across city agencies.</p> <p>The problem of contract delays affects cash flow and services to the public, and also compounds other issues, such as contracts not accounting enough for overhead expenses, that together contribute to a financial crisis for many organizations that the city contracts with to provide vital services from homeless shelters to after school programs.</p> <p>“It needs to be a priority of this administration to fix the backlog in contract registration and also the significant amount of contract amendments that are pending from investments the city made last year: money that was announced on July 1 of 2017 that providers still have not gotten in June of 2018,” said Michelle Jackson, spokesperson for the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group (HSASG), in an interview last week. The group, which consists of nine associations and represents some 2,000 human services provider organizations in New York City, will be testifying at a City Council <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=605915&amp;GUID=E847EE2B-9412-4205-B4B2-D7FE144D23D8&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">oversight hearing</a> on the issue at City Hall this Thursday, June 21. “There really needs to be a focus on getting all of those amendments and registrations up to date,” Jackson added.</p> <p>The delay in the city’s procurement process means vendors -- predominately nonprofits in the human services sector -- are forced to either fund their own work while they wait for the city to register and approve their contracts, or delay starting operations entirely. For providers waiting to have their contracts renewed, Jackson said, “they have to just keep operating the service because you don’t just send all the kids home, you don’t kick everyone out of the shelter. It’s not like a construction project where you can just wait to get all your documents signed…Nonprofits are taking a real fiscal and legal liability by waiting for these contracts.”</p> <p>It’s a system in “dire need of reform,” according to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, Stringer’s spokesperson added: “One of city government’s most important jobs is delivering services to New Yorkers in need – that’s why fixing the city procurement process is urgent and essential. Providing services to our most vulnerable residents depends on our ability to execute social service contracts expediently.”</p> <p>The next step in addressing the issue is this week’s hearing of the City Council Committees on Contracts and General Welfare at City Hall, which will be co-chaired by Brooklyn Council Members Justin Brannan and Stephen Levin, the respective chairs of those committees. The “process has to be sped up,” Levin said.</p> <p>“These providers are operating at significant deficit and often we engage with providers that are doing a lot of the work that we would like to see providers do, and they are doing it on their own fundraising,” Levin told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>The backlog is also putting pressure on the city’s Returnable Grant Fund, a revolving fund providing interest-free loans to nonprofits. February testimony from Acting Chair of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, Dan Symon, to the City Council was referenced in the comptroller’s report, claiming the Fund processed 751 loans for nonprofits in fiscal year 2017 as a “direct result of delayed contract awards.” The combined total of these loans was $149.9 million.</p> <p>“We need to make sure we are providing services equitably across the board,” Levin said. “That when you go to shelter you’re not just lucking out in getting into a good provider or a provider that’s has the ability to raise significant money versus a provider that can’t. That’s not an equitable system.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio and his administration were widely criticized following the release of Stringer’s report, with questions raised about the progressive mayor’s commitment to human services organizations and their clients. The issues raised by the comptroller’s report are longstanding and nonprofits groups and their supporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank" rel="noopener">have been lobbying city government to improve the process for sometime</a>.</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette last week, a City Hall spokesperson said the mayor’s office has been working to reduce contracting backlogs and that model budgets -- a system introduced this year designed to increase rates for providers funded below what is considered the ‘model’ to deliver appropriate service -- will help these departments fulfil their administrative duties to outside contractors. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We’ve invested more than a quarter-billion new dollars annually in our shelter provider partners to address decades of disinvestment and reform outdated rates they were paid for many years,” the spokesperson said. “We have also been working closely with these vital partners to resolve inherited contracting backlogs, implement model budgets for the first time ever, and address any outstanding challenges they may have to ensure they can deliver the services our neighbors in need deserve as they get back on their feet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to this work in resolving contracting issues, the City Hall spokesperson said this year is the first time in recent memory that providers will be operating with registered current contracts. As of May 2018, 97 percent of fiscal year 2018 contracts are registered and active, with only one contract still at the comptroller’s office and another contract pending provider budget submission.</p> <p>According to the comptroller’s report, the seven city agencies that contract for the majority of human service programs are: the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Youth &amp; Community Development (DYCD), Department for the Aging (DFTA), Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Human Resources Administration (HRA), and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).</p> <p>All of these departments submitted more than half of their registration and renewal contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year. DHS and HRA submitted 100 percent of these contracts retroactively, and the DOE was at 99.8 percent of registration and renewal contracts submitted after their start date. In HRA’s case, more than 60 percent of retroactive contracts were submitted to the comptroller’s office more than six months after the contract was due to start.</p> <p>Despite the backlog, some departments are set to receive less funding in fiscal year 2019 than in the current, soon-to-end fiscal year, according to the city <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/erc4-18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">budget</a> that was released on Monday June 12.</p> <p>DYCD, for example, is receiving about $121 million less in funding via the city budget this financial year, yet of 859 registered or renewed contracts it received last year, 795 (92.5 percent) were submitted retroactively, according to the comptroller’s <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/running-late-an-analysis-of-nyc-agency-contracts/#_ednref1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a>. Similarly, DOHMH is allocated $112 million less in fiscal 2019 than it was in 2018, and of 314 new and renewed contracts it handled last fiscal year, 265 (or 84.4 percent) were submitted after their start date.</p> <p>When asked if the budget has allocated enough resources to these city agencies that are struggling with contracting, Council Member Brannan said: “This is something we intend to discuss at the hearing on the 21st, both from the administration side as well as what the providers think. I am committed to working with the Speaker, Administration, as well as the Comptroller, to ensure we are processing contracts in as swift a manner as possible so that vital services are not being jeopardized due to procedural snafus that can be remedied.”</p> <p>“I hope that through our hearing we can shed light on the administration’s progress implementing model budgeting across different agencies as well as seeing how the providers are faring with model budgeting,” Brannan added. &nbsp;</p> <p>DHS and the DOE, which respectively submitted 100 percent and 99.8 percent of contracts retroactively to the comptroller’s office last year, are both receiving an increase in funding for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the city’s preliminary budget, DHS is receiving more than $183 million in additional funding compared to the current fiscal year and DOE is budgeted an additional $1.2 billion.</p> <p>Speaking to Gotham Gazette, Council Member Levin said the Council’s preliminary budget hearing with DHS dealt largely with where the increased funding is going and he is confident the additional funding will help the agency in improving contract delays.</p> <p>“In our preliminary budget hearing with DHS, we did talk a lot about where a lot of the increased funding is going and they spoke a lot about the model budget contract,” Levin said. “So we’re expecting that it should be able to be covered in the significant increases in budget year-over-year in DHS. I have every expectation that they’ll be able to be covered it for sure. And if they’re not, there’s opportunities to do budget modifications.”</p> <p>“We need a system that’s set up that can afford the services that we need to provide for over 60,000 people in shelter ...” Levin continued. “We need to make sure that the providers are funded enough so that they can provide adequate services.”</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer's report makes two recommendations for improving the processing of contracts within city agencies: to stipulate deadlines for every agency that handles contract applications and to implement a transparent tracking system for vendors to follow their applications through the process. But the report also describes an extremely cumbersome system, weighed down in bureaucracy, in which up to five departments sometimes will handle a contract before it reaches the comptroller’s office -- the only agency with a deadline, which is 30 days -- where it is ultimately approved or kicked back to city agencies for more processing.</p> <p>“What we’re looking at now is 100 percent late registration [from some departments] and what’s going to happen today and tomorrow to get that fixed?” Jackson, of the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group, said, adding that while she “absolutely agrees” with the comptroller’s recommendations, “a tracking system and a timeline are not going to fix the backlog” already in existence.</p> <p>The HSASG is calling for a “SWAT Team” to immediately help clear the backlog, as well as allocation and recognition of this in the budget. Jackson said the group is asking for an additional $200 million to human services, not only to fix the contracting delays, but to also go to areas such as benefits, insurance, and occupancy costs.</p> <p>“A lot of these contracts don’t have cost escalators, and obviously in New York City rent goes up every year (a lot of expenses go up), and there’s not a way to capture that,” Jackson said. “Of course we were disappointed to not see further investment in the sector but we appreciate it’s a long-term investment that needs to be made.”</p> <p>Brannan said he “supports the recommendations” laid out in the comptroller’s report and that he is “working with the Comptroller’s office to come up with potential legislative fixes that would provide for agencies to process city contracts within a much more reasonable period of time.” He said he’s spoken to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services about next phases in rolling out the city’s Procurement and Sourcing Solutions Portal (PASSPort), saying it “in theory should significantly reduce procurement delays.”</p> <p>The spokesperson from City Hall also said the planned updates to PASSport will “make it easier for agencies to order and pay for goods off centralized contracts.” The system, which was initially launched in August 2017, will be updated with “phase two” in 2019 and “phase three” will launch approximately one year later to “enable online bidding and invoice management for all agencies,” the spokesperson said. &nbsp;</p> <p>New York City isn’t the first city to require urgent and comprehensive procurement reform. A 2005 report by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) on fixing that city’s similarly “slow and burdensome” contracting system provided the administration with a range of recommendations that might be applicable in New York City today. These included, not only fixed deadlines for every department and a transparent tracking system, but also recommendations to increase public information and awareness of the city’s contracting system; allow simultaneous review by agencies; develop clear and explicit procedures for fast-tracking contracts; and use a post-audit approach to test compliance by departments, instead of every single contract moving through the comptroller’s office.</p> <p>There is no indication of any other measures being taken to address the contracting backlog in New York City, though the City Hall spokesperson said: “We are continuously looking to improve our practices to also realize timely procurement.”</p> <p>More ideas will likely be raised at Thursday’s Council hearing, but for those in the nonprofit sector, the fiscal year 2019 budget was the perfect place for the city to demonstrate its understanding of, and commitment to solving, the problem. “We would have liked to see it in the budget, even if it was just a statement about how to get all this money out the door,” Jackson said. “I think there needs to be a real recognition that this is a priority to fix the registration process and it needs to happen right away.”</p> <p>

***
by Caitlin Bishop, Gotham Gazette
@caitybishop  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Don’t Pass a State Budget Without Investment in Human Services 2018-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7574:don-t-pass-a-state-budget-without-investment-in-human-services Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/bronxworks-workers.jpg" alt="bronxworks workers" width="600" height="472" /></p> <p>(photo via @UNHNY)</p> <hr /> <p>Poverty-related issues such as homelessness or family crisis treatment like opioid addiction need more than a simple infusion of cash. Addressing the underlying issues and building community resilience requires long-term, community-based organizations dedicated to ensuring that families and individuals have access to local programs that address the stability of their communities.</p> <p>State government appreciates this expertise as it contracts with human service organizations to deliver programs on its behalf, but government leaders fail to provide the funding necessary to fully support the organizations’ long-term stability. Unfortunately, state contracts rarely cover the full cost of human services, which has resulted in a chronically underfunded sector with crumbling infrastructure and an undercompensated workforce. The absence of adequate funding directly undermines the long-term stability of this sector, which undermines the short- and long-term stability of its workforce and clients.</p> <p>Employees in the nonprofit human services sector are poorly compensated, despite their experience and education — 41% percent have a four-year college degree and another 25% have some college education. As a result, these dedicated workers often find themselves relying on government benefits to support their own families. Low wages drain talent from our sector as the workers with experience move on to find jobs that provide better compensation. Employee turnover undermines human services programs, which are best served by a stable workforce, whose members earn the trust of their clients and can most effectively help them.</p> <p>The human services sector vigorously supported Governor Cuomo’s efforts to increase the minimum wage, but we were disappointed when our sector’s contracts were never adjusted by the state to fund the wage increases for human services employees. Unlike for-profit businesses, nonprofit human service organizations cannot increase the cost of their services to pay for higher wages. These increased wages must be paid for by the state.</p> <p>The governor and state Legislature are currently negotiating the new budget for the state fiscal year that beings on April 1. We have joined a statewide coalition of 350 nonprofit human services providers, Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York, in order to call on the state to make key investments to strengthen the human services sector.</p> <p>One of our key requests is that the state fund the minimum wage for human service contracts, so that we can provide much-needed salary increases for this workforce.</p> <p>Outdated infrastructure is also a major concern among nonprofit organizations.</p> <p>Building repairs and technology upgrades are not included in contracts, yet are essential to running quality programs. The state created the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program (NICIP) to address this issue, but, unfortunately, current funding levels are not sufficient to support current needs. Hundreds of nonprofits have applied for a very limited number of grants and we call on state leaders to add funding to NICIP to support these outstanding grant applications.</p> <p>Without these critical investments in our workforce and capital for our facilities, nonprofit human services organizations will be forced to serve fewer families, children, immigrants, and older adults in the coming year. The New York State Assembly has included these items in its budget priorities and now we need the governor and the State Senate to support funding the minimum wage and continuing to fund infrastructure.</p> <p>Without this investment it will be our communities that ultimately suffer.</p> <p>***<br />Susan Stamler is the Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses, an association of settlement houses that reaches more than 750,000 New Yorkers each year. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UNHNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@UNHNY</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/bronxworks-workers.jpg" alt="bronxworks workers" width="600" height="472" /></p> <p>(photo via @UNHNY)</p> <hr /> <p>Poverty-related issues such as homelessness or family crisis treatment like opioid addiction need more than a simple infusion of cash. Addressing the underlying issues and building community resilience requires long-term, community-based organizations dedicated to ensuring that families and individuals have access to local programs that address the stability of their communities.</p> <p>State government appreciates this expertise as it contracts with human service organizations to deliver programs on its behalf, but government leaders fail to provide the funding necessary to fully support the organizations’ long-term stability. Unfortunately, state contracts rarely cover the full cost of human services, which has resulted in a chronically underfunded sector with crumbling infrastructure and an undercompensated workforce. The absence of adequate funding directly undermines the long-term stability of this sector, which undermines the short- and long-term stability of its workforce and clients.</p> <p>Employees in the nonprofit human services sector are poorly compensated, despite their experience and education — 41% percent have a four-year college degree and another 25% have some college education. As a result, these dedicated workers often find themselves relying on government benefits to support their own families. Low wages drain talent from our sector as the workers with experience move on to find jobs that provide better compensation. Employee turnover undermines human services programs, which are best served by a stable workforce, whose members earn the trust of their clients and can most effectively help them.</p> <p>The human services sector vigorously supported Governor Cuomo’s efforts to increase the minimum wage, but we were disappointed when our sector’s contracts were never adjusted by the state to fund the wage increases for human services employees. Unlike for-profit businesses, nonprofit human service organizations cannot increase the cost of their services to pay for higher wages. These increased wages must be paid for by the state.</p> <p>The governor and state Legislature are currently negotiating the new budget for the state fiscal year that beings on April 1. We have joined a statewide coalition of 350 nonprofit human services providers, Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York, in order to call on the state to make key investments to strengthen the human services sector.</p> <p>One of our key requests is that the state fund the minimum wage for human service contracts, so that we can provide much-needed salary increases for this workforce.</p> <p>Outdated infrastructure is also a major concern among nonprofit organizations.</p> <p>Building repairs and technology upgrades are not included in contracts, yet are essential to running quality programs. The state created the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program (NICIP) to address this issue, but, unfortunately, current funding levels are not sufficient to support current needs. Hundreds of nonprofits have applied for a very limited number of grants and we call on state leaders to add funding to NICIP to support these outstanding grant applications.</p> <p>Without these critical investments in our workforce and capital for our facilities, nonprofit human services organizations will be forced to serve fewer families, children, immigrants, and older adults in the coming year. The New York State Assembly has included these items in its budget priorities and now we need the governor and the State Senate to support funding the minimum wage and continuing to fund infrastructure.</p> <p>Without this investment it will be our communities that ultimately suffer.</p> <p>***<br />Susan Stamler is the Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses, an association of settlement houses that reaches more than 750,000 New Yorkers each year. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UNHNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@UNHNY</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
State Leaders Must Blunt Impact of Federal Tax Reform on New York Nonprofits and the People Who Rely on Us 2018-01-28T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-28T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7445:state-leaders-must-blunt-impact-of-federal-tax-reform-on-new-york-nonprofits-and-the-people-who-rely-on-us Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/37749459904_8287feee00_z.jpg" alt="37749459904 8287feee00 z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The recently passed federal tax law will deepen inequality and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of families and individuals across our state. This legislation penalizes New Yorkers by capping the state and local tax (SALT) deduction and will create deficits that are likely to result in catastrophic cuts to the programs they depend on. These tax “cuts” will drive up the national deficit, which will then be cynically used as a rationale for slashing investments in critical programs such as food assistance, public housing, and affordable healthcare.</p> <p>Our state leaders must take action to ensure that we can weather this storm.</p> <p>Federal aid accounts for one-third of the New York State budget and directly accounts for 8-10% of the New York City budget. The state is already facing a deficit that will be exacerbated by any federal cuts to state assistance or Medicaid spending.&nbsp; For example, homelessness is a major problem in our city and two-thirds of the New York City Housing Authority’s budget comes from federal aid. Cuts in aid to states would also have a significant impact on our children as 41% of the budget for the Administration for Children’s Services and 8% of the Department of Youth &amp; Community Development funding comes from the federal government. Lack of funds at these agencies would impact foster care, adoption services, after-school programs, and Head Start. When direct aid is cut, families and individuals will rely even more heavily on nonprofit human services organizations. Our nonprofits deliver essential programs through contracts with city and state governments that support people through every stage of life, including early child education, elder care, shelter for people experiencing homelessness, job placement, and nutrition assistance. However, these government contracts rarely cover the full cost of providing services, which has resulted in a chronically underfunded sector.</p> <p>At the same time, this federal legislation dis-incentivizes charitable giving.</p> <p>Private fundraising has been an important (but insufficient) tool for filling the deficit that comes with government contracts. The tax bill raises the standard deduction, and with that increase many people will not itemize anymore, meaning that they will not see a tax benefit in making charitable donations. According to the&nbsp;Indiana University School of Philanthropy in a <a href="https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/news-events/news-item/tax-policy-proposals-would-reduce-charitable-giving,-new-study-finds.html?id=227" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report commissioned by Independent Sector</a>, 82 percent of charitable giving comes from people who itemize their tax return, and it is estimated that charitable giving will go down by about $13 billion.</p> <p>Too many organizations are already at a breaking point. In New York City, 18% of nonprofit human services organizations are insolvent. This tax bill could push them over the edge at the exact moment when they are needed most. While we know this is a difficult budget year, given the deficit and uncertainty at the federal level, it is now more important than ever that we make sure our nonprofits are financially strong and resilient.</p> <p>We are asking the state to make investments in our workforce and our infrastructure to ensure we are strong enough to continue serving communities well into the future.&nbsp;The underfunding of human services is not a new issue, but we need the Governor to lead in this area and 1) fund the minimum wage for human services workers contracted by the State, 2) continue the Nonprofit Capital Infrastructure Fund – a highly sought after grant program that assists nonprofits in making crucial improvements to their buildings and technology, and 3) fund a wage adjustment for a workforce that has gone without a salary increase in over eight years.</p> <p>The Governor’s Executive Budget recognizes the federal threats to New York and includes an impressive agenda, which requires the close collaboration of human services providers across the state who are threatened not only by federal policies, but also by years of state policies and funding decisions that have jeopardized their ability to serve as anchors for their communities. Our organizations are dedicated to elevating the human potential of our families and communities, and we were gravely disappointed that some of our representatives did not act in the best interests of our state in passing this damaging tax legislation. However, New York now has an opportunity to be a progressive leader for the country by making investments in the human services sector. In times of challenge and uncertainty, nonprofits are our communities’ first line of defense and careful planning and adequate financial resources from the city and state are needed to protect these essential services.</p> <p>***<br /> Center for New York City Affairs<br /> Fiscal Policy Institute<br /> FPWA<br /> Human Services Council of New York<br /> United Neighborhood Houses</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this column has been updated to correctly identify Independent Sector as the funder of the Indiana University study, not the United Way as originally written.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/37749459904_8287feee00_z.jpg" alt="37749459904 8287feee00 z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The recently passed federal tax law will deepen inequality and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of families and individuals across our state. This legislation penalizes New Yorkers by capping the state and local tax (SALT) deduction and will create deficits that are likely to result in catastrophic cuts to the programs they depend on. These tax “cuts” will drive up the national deficit, which will then be cynically used as a rationale for slashing investments in critical programs such as food assistance, public housing, and affordable healthcare.</p> <p>Our state leaders must take action to ensure that we can weather this storm.</p> <p>Federal aid accounts for one-third of the New York State budget and directly accounts for 8-10% of the New York City budget. The state is already facing a deficit that will be exacerbated by any federal cuts to state assistance or Medicaid spending.&nbsp; For example, homelessness is a major problem in our city and two-thirds of the New York City Housing Authority’s budget comes from federal aid. Cuts in aid to states would also have a significant impact on our children as 41% of the budget for the Administration for Children’s Services and 8% of the Department of Youth &amp; Community Development funding comes from the federal government. Lack of funds at these agencies would impact foster care, adoption services, after-school programs, and Head Start. When direct aid is cut, families and individuals will rely even more heavily on nonprofit human services organizations. Our nonprofits deliver essential programs through contracts with city and state governments that support people through every stage of life, including early child education, elder care, shelter for people experiencing homelessness, job placement, and nutrition assistance. However, these government contracts rarely cover the full cost of providing services, which has resulted in a chronically underfunded sector.</p> <p>At the same time, this federal legislation dis-incentivizes charitable giving.</p> <p>Private fundraising has been an important (but insufficient) tool for filling the deficit that comes with government contracts. The tax bill raises the standard deduction, and with that increase many people will not itemize anymore, meaning that they will not see a tax benefit in making charitable donations. According to the&nbsp;Indiana University School of Philanthropy in a <a href="https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/news-events/news-item/tax-policy-proposals-would-reduce-charitable-giving,-new-study-finds.html?id=227" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report commissioned by Independent Sector</a>, 82 percent of charitable giving comes from people who itemize their tax return, and it is estimated that charitable giving will go down by about $13 billion.</p> <p>Too many organizations are already at a breaking point. In New York City, 18% of nonprofit human services organizations are insolvent. This tax bill could push them over the edge at the exact moment when they are needed most. While we know this is a difficult budget year, given the deficit and uncertainty at the federal level, it is now more important than ever that we make sure our nonprofits are financially strong and resilient.</p> <p>We are asking the state to make investments in our workforce and our infrastructure to ensure we are strong enough to continue serving communities well into the future.&nbsp;The underfunding of human services is not a new issue, but we need the Governor to lead in this area and 1) fund the minimum wage for human services workers contracted by the State, 2) continue the Nonprofit Capital Infrastructure Fund – a highly sought after grant program that assists nonprofits in making crucial improvements to their buildings and technology, and 3) fund a wage adjustment for a workforce that has gone without a salary increase in over eight years.</p> <p>The Governor’s Executive Budget recognizes the federal threats to New York and includes an impressive agenda, which requires the close collaboration of human services providers across the state who are threatened not only by federal policies, but also by years of state policies and funding decisions that have jeopardized their ability to serve as anchors for their communities. Our organizations are dedicated to elevating the human potential of our families and communities, and we were gravely disappointed that some of our representatives did not act in the best interests of our state in passing this damaging tax legislation. However, New York now has an opportunity to be a progressive leader for the country by making investments in the human services sector. In times of challenge and uncertainty, nonprofits are our communities’ first line of defense and careful planning and adequate financial resources from the city and state are needed to protect these essential services.</p> <p>***<br /> Center for New York City Affairs<br /> Fiscal Policy Institute<br /> FPWA<br /> Human Services Council of New York<br /> United Neighborhood Houses</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this column has been updated to correctly identify Independent Sector as the funder of the Indiana University study, not the United Way as originally written.</p>
City Council Considers Subcontractors Bill of Rights 2017-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7022:council-considers-bill-of-rights-for-subcontractors Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/12331075774_34a53d8c6d_z.jpg" alt="12331075774 34a53d8c6d z" width="600" height="411" /></p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal (photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Economic Development and the Committee on Contracts held a joint hearing on Thursday to discuss proposed legislation that would create a bill of rights for subcontractors working with the city.</p> <p><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3055671&amp;GUID=B9076E52-649D-4461-A4B1-0A057750D97F&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro.1615</a>, sponsored by Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy, Jr., and Helen Rosenthal, would require the Department of Small Business Services to create a bill of rights that clearly lays out expectations for prime contractors and subcontractors, and makes it easier for subcontractors to find out what services and resources are available to them should they have a problem or concern with their contract. The legislation would apply to any contracts worth more than $100,000.</p> <p>“[Contracting] is the heart of so much of what we do here -- construction of public infrastructure and affordable housing, a whole range of human services from pre-K all the way up to senior services,” said Rosenthal, chair of the contracts committee, in her opening statement. “The contracting process is an essential part of how New York City government works.”</p> <p>The city has registered 12,949 expense contracts worth $20.3 billion in the 2017 fiscal year, which runs through June 30, and subcontractors accounted for $558 million of that sum, according to data available on the comptroller’s <a href="http://www.checkbooknyc.com/contracts_landing/status/A/yeartype/B/year/118/dashboard/ss" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Checkbook NYC</a> website. These subcontractors often face a number of hurdles including a lack of access to adequate legal representation to navigate contracts, receiving late payments, and not being able to apply for loans. This is especially true for subcontractors working in human services.</p> <p>“Contractors often pay subcontractors late because they cannot disburse government funds prior to completion of the service they are paying for, and they themselves are paid late,” explained Tracie Robinson, a senior policy analyst at the Human Services Council of New York, in her testimony. HSC represents thousands of nonprofits in New York and advocates for human services providers as a whole. “[Subcontractors] operate in the context of a broken contracting system. Only if we address the underlying causes of subcontractor instability -- problems at the government-contractor level -- will we be able to set prime contractors and subcontractors alike up for success.”</p> <p>Many subcontractors are nonprofit organizations and small businesses that are overshadowed by larger entities and do not have the same access to credit and fundraising. Intro. 1615 would make sure that subcontractors get an overview of the payment process, know the points of contact between government agencies, and can get the appropriate documents necessary to get the information and assistance they need.</p> <p>“Many smaller nonprofit organizations do not have in-house attorneys or staff with experience understanding and administering government contracts,” said Laura Abel, senior policy counsel for Lawyers Alliance for New York, a provider of business and legal services for nonprofits. “City contracts are long, dense, and full of legalese. As a result, nonprofit organizations may take on obligations that they do not understand and cannot fulfill.”</p> <p>Abel also added, “I have asked clients dealing with an unexpected development what their contract says about that issue, only to hear, ‘Oh, it’s all boilerplate, it’s no help.’ A subcontractor bill of rights can help by encouraging subcontractors to consult counsel before entering into a contract, and whenever they have questions during the life of the contract.”</p> <p>In addition, subcontractors are frequently minority- and women-owned businesses, commonly referred to as M/WBEs. The city has been trying to encourage the growth and development of M/WBEs to ensure a more equitable distribution of city money. M/WBEs also tend to be more familiar with local community needs compared to larger contractors. M/WBEs accounted for $245.8 million in subcontracts registered in fiscal 2017. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">OneNYC plan</a> includes a commitment to award at least 30 percent of city contract dollars to M/WBEs by 2021 and to award $16 billion in city contracts to M/WBEs by 2025.</p> <p>Michael Owh, director of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and the city’s chief procurement officer, said the de Blasio administration supports the bill and that it “is a step in the right direction toward providing information to businesses and connecting them with resources.”</p> <p>When asked by Council Member Daniel Garodnick, the chair of the Committee on Economic Development, if the bill warranted any changes or edits, Owh emphasized that it would need input from all the stakeholders. “[We] want to make sure that we get enough feedback from not just our agencies but also the community, the contracting community, as well as the subcontracting community to make sure that we are able to take in all of the various factors,” Owh said.</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/12331075774_34a53d8c6d_z.jpg" alt="12331075774 34a53d8c6d z" width="600" height="411" /></p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal (photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Economic Development and the Committee on Contracts held a joint hearing on Thursday to discuss proposed legislation that would create a bill of rights for subcontractors working with the city.</p> <p><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3055671&amp;GUID=B9076E52-649D-4461-A4B1-0A057750D97F&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro.1615</a>, sponsored by Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy, Jr., and Helen Rosenthal, would require the Department of Small Business Services to create a bill of rights that clearly lays out expectations for prime contractors and subcontractors, and makes it easier for subcontractors to find out what services and resources are available to them should they have a problem or concern with their contract. The legislation would apply to any contracts worth more than $100,000.</p> <p>“[Contracting] is the heart of so much of what we do here -- construction of public infrastructure and affordable housing, a whole range of human services from pre-K all the way up to senior services,” said Rosenthal, chair of the contracts committee, in her opening statement. “The contracting process is an essential part of how New York City government works.”</p> <p>The city has registered 12,949 expense contracts worth $20.3 billion in the 2017 fiscal year, which runs through June 30, and subcontractors accounted for $558 million of that sum, according to data available on the comptroller’s <a href="http://www.checkbooknyc.com/contracts_landing/status/A/yeartype/B/year/118/dashboard/ss" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Checkbook NYC</a> website. These subcontractors often face a number of hurdles including a lack of access to adequate legal representation to navigate contracts, receiving late payments, and not being able to apply for loans. This is especially true for subcontractors working in human services.</p> <p>“Contractors often pay subcontractors late because they cannot disburse government funds prior to completion of the service they are paying for, and they themselves are paid late,” explained Tracie Robinson, a senior policy analyst at the Human Services Council of New York, in her testimony. HSC represents thousands of nonprofits in New York and advocates for human services providers as a whole. “[Subcontractors] operate in the context of a broken contracting system. Only if we address the underlying causes of subcontractor instability -- problems at the government-contractor level -- will we be able to set prime contractors and subcontractors alike up for success.”</p> <p>Many subcontractors are nonprofit organizations and small businesses that are overshadowed by larger entities and do not have the same access to credit and fundraising. Intro. 1615 would make sure that subcontractors get an overview of the payment process, know the points of contact between government agencies, and can get the appropriate documents necessary to get the information and assistance they need.</p> <p>“Many smaller nonprofit organizations do not have in-house attorneys or staff with experience understanding and administering government contracts,” said Laura Abel, senior policy counsel for Lawyers Alliance for New York, a provider of business and legal services for nonprofits. “City contracts are long, dense, and full of legalese. As a result, nonprofit organizations may take on obligations that they do not understand and cannot fulfill.”</p> <p>Abel also added, “I have asked clients dealing with an unexpected development what their contract says about that issue, only to hear, ‘Oh, it’s all boilerplate, it’s no help.’ A subcontractor bill of rights can help by encouraging subcontractors to consult counsel before entering into a contract, and whenever they have questions during the life of the contract.”</p> <p>In addition, subcontractors are frequently minority- and women-owned businesses, commonly referred to as M/WBEs. The city has been trying to encourage the growth and development of M/WBEs to ensure a more equitable distribution of city money. M/WBEs also tend to be more familiar with local community needs compared to larger contractors. M/WBEs accounted for $245.8 million in subcontracts registered in fiscal 2017. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s <a href="https://onenyc.cityofnewyork.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">OneNYC plan</a> includes a commitment to award at least 30 percent of city contract dollars to M/WBEs by 2021 and to award $16 billion in city contracts to M/WBEs by 2025.</p> <p>Michael Owh, director of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and the city’s chief procurement officer, said the de Blasio administration supports the bill and that it “is a step in the right direction toward providing information to businesses and connecting them with resources.”</p> <p>When asked by Council Member Daniel Garodnick, the chair of the Committee on Economic Development, if the bill warranted any changes or edits, Owh emphasized that it would need input from all the stakeholders. “[We] want to make sure that we get enough feedback from not just our agencies but also the community, the contracting community, as well as the subcontracting community to make sure that we are able to take in all of the various factors,” Owh said.</p> <p> </p> Pointing to Progress, Deputy Mayor Says City Hears Nonprofit Funding Concerns 2017-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 2017-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6772:pointing-to-progress-deputy-mayor-says-city-hears-nonprofit-funding-concerns Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14641145470_22064ea746_z.jpg" alt="Deputy Mayor Richard Buery speaking Medgar Evers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Deputy Mayor Richard Buery (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/meccunyphotos/sets/72157645758341677/with/14641145470/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Medgar Evers College)</p> <hr /> <p>As city-contracted nonprofit organizations continue to call for funding increases from the de Blasio administration, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery insists that the administration is “sympathetic” to those concerns and is doing everything in its power to ensure a “strong and robust” nonprofit sector.</p> <p>Nonprofits in the city that provide a range of contracted services, from mental health care and early childhood education to homelessness prevention, say they are facing a crisis of financial instability brought on by decades of underinvestment by successive administrations. As their costs soar and contracts remain relatively flat, many are cutting staff or whittling down their services to remain afloat. Nearly one in five are insolvent.</p> <p>“There really has been absolutely a history of disinvestment in the sector which makes their work harder,” said Buery, who heads strategic policy initiatives for the administration, in an interview at City Hall. “I think under our administration, there’s really been an acknowledgement of that and I really do believe a real effort to address it.”</p> <p>Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first term Democrat, there have been incremental efforts to buoy the sector and those who work in it, particularly by providing salary increases for employees at city-contracted nonprofits. Two years ago, the city gave 2.5 percent cost of living raises to human services nonprofits. The city subsequently announced a $15 minimum wage for all city-contracted nonprofit personnel and, in the mayor's recently-released fiscal year 2018 budget plan, is proposing 2 percent raises annually for three years for the 90,000 employees of human services nonprofits.</p> <p>The city also established a Nonprofit Resiliency Committee last year, to examine structural problems in the sector and “streamline some of the bureaucratic challenges which wind up having a dollar impact, a financial impact on nonprofits that try to get work done,” Buery said.</p> <p>Still, nonprofit groups argue that salary increases, though laudable, are not sufficient in the face of rising costs for insurance, rent, infrastructure, and more. “I think it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem,” said Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council. “The institution itself is financially struggling,” she said, separating the questions of employee wages and organizational solvency.</p> <p>Sesso is one of nearly 200 human services nonprofit leaders who wrote to Mayor de Blasio in December, calling for a 12 percent increase in contracts across the board at an estimated $500 million price tag. “You count on us each day to ensure the wellbeing, safety, and security of our fellow New Yorkers,” the letter reads. “We fully embrace your equity agenda, but are compromised in our ability to help achieve it given the years of City neglect of our work. You inherited this situation, but it has continued to worsen and we need bold leadership now to fix it.”</p> <p>Deputy Mayor Buery stressed that the city is committed to those fixes and is engaged in constant dialogue with the nonprofit sector, but change doesn’t happen overnight. “I think everybody understands that...problems that have taken decades to create, are not gonna be solved in one budget cycle, or two budget cycles,” he said, pointing out that the challenges faced by the sector aren’t a problem specific to the de Blasio administration but one faced by city government at large.</p> <p>Buery also said that the services provided by these nonprofits are particularly critical at a “vulnerable” time for the city, facing a period of economic slowdown and potential federal budget cuts.</p> <p>That vulnerability and uncertainty about the future is precisely why Sesso from HSC said the city needs to invest in nonprofits now, to shore up a sector that serves the city’s neediest population. And while she agrees that the crisis can’t be solved immediately, “It’s important they make a substantial move forward this year,” she said.</p> <p>Sesso commended the administration for creating the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee and ensuring ongoing conversations with nonprofits. But, she said, “As an advocate, until I see the money in the budget, I’m not satisfied. You can’t solve the problem through efficiencies alone.”</p> <p>The city budget cycle recently began with de Blasio’s presentation of his preliminary budget. It will continue with a round of City Council hearings, behind-the-scenes negotiation and lobbying, de Blasio’s executive budget, more hearings and negotiations, and a budget deal between the mayor and the Council by the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.</p> <p>The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, one of New York’s largest nonprofit service providers, has been pushing for increased funding not only in the city but also at the state level. And while the state has yet to engage with their efforts, the city’s initiatives are encouraging. “We’re seeing some evidence of interest in addressing the issue,” said Emily Miles, director of policy, advocacy and research for FPWA. Miles cited the minimum wage increase and the cost of living adjustment. “But there’s some ways to go,” she said.</p> <p>Miles and her colleague, policy analyst Carlyn Cowen, praised the administration for tackling structural issues and soliciting feedback from organizations through the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee, something prior administrations ignored. “Having everybody at the table is pretty unprecedented,” said Cowen. But they emphasized the pressing need to strengthen human services nonprofits, echoing Sesso’s warning of how federal policies may impact New Yorkers.</p> <p>For the administration, the fact that nonprofits are voicing their concerns is a badge of honor, Buery said. “The light that’s being shined on the problem is a good thing,” the deputy mayor told Gotham Gazette, “but it is in part a reaction to an administration which has been willing to shine that light and open that conversation.”</p> <p>Buery expects that dialogue will continue through the budget process as the city assesses revenue, and analyzes where best to allocate spending. “The mayor’s really shown his commitment to putting his money where his mouth is and so we intend to move forward with this sector to make sure we continue to do so,” he said.</p> <p>With the city economy humming, and jobs and tourism at record highs, de Blasio has rapidly increased the city budget over his three years as mayor. He has continued to announce new funding initiatives already this year.</p> <p>Asked at a news conference on Tuesday about the funding for nonprofits in his latest budget, Mayor de Blasio said, “I think the issue of how to make sure each preventive service organization does their job as best as possible is a broader qualitative question and to make sure we have enough of these services available when we need them for families in immediate need...we have to make sure the quantity and the quality is right. In the meantime we’re certainly looking for every opportunity to improve the dynamics for those workers and the compensation they get.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14641145470_22064ea746_z.jpg" alt="Deputy Mayor Richard Buery speaking Medgar Evers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Deputy Mayor Richard Buery (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/meccunyphotos/sets/72157645758341677/with/14641145470/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Medgar Evers College)</p> <hr /> <p>As city-contracted nonprofit organizations continue to call for funding increases from the de Blasio administration, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery insists that the administration is “sympathetic” to those concerns and is doing everything in its power to ensure a “strong and robust” nonprofit sector.</p> <p>Nonprofits in the city that provide a range of contracted services, from mental health care and early childhood education to homelessness prevention, say they are facing a crisis of financial instability brought on by decades of underinvestment by successive administrations. As their costs soar and contracts remain relatively flat, many are cutting staff or whittling down their services to remain afloat. Nearly one in five are insolvent.</p> <p>“There really has been absolutely a history of disinvestment in the sector which makes their work harder,” said Buery, who heads strategic policy initiatives for the administration, in an interview at City Hall. “I think under our administration, there’s really been an acknowledgement of that and I really do believe a real effort to address it.”</p> <p>Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first term Democrat, there have been incremental efforts to buoy the sector and those who work in it, particularly by providing salary increases for employees at city-contracted nonprofits. Two years ago, the city gave 2.5 percent cost of living raises to human services nonprofits. The city subsequently announced a $15 minimum wage for all city-contracted nonprofit personnel and, in the mayor's recently-released fiscal year 2018 budget plan, is proposing 2 percent raises annually for three years for the 90,000 employees of human services nonprofits.</p> <p>The city also established a Nonprofit Resiliency Committee last year, to examine structural problems in the sector and “streamline some of the bureaucratic challenges which wind up having a dollar impact, a financial impact on nonprofits that try to get work done,” Buery said.</p> <p>Still, nonprofit groups argue that salary increases, though laudable, are not sufficient in the face of rising costs for insurance, rent, infrastructure, and more. “I think it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem,” said Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council. “The institution itself is financially struggling,” she said, separating the questions of employee wages and organizational solvency.</p> <p>Sesso is one of nearly 200 human services nonprofit leaders who wrote to Mayor de Blasio in December, calling for a 12 percent increase in contracts across the board at an estimated $500 million price tag. “You count on us each day to ensure the wellbeing, safety, and security of our fellow New Yorkers,” the letter reads. “We fully embrace your equity agenda, but are compromised in our ability to help achieve it given the years of City neglect of our work. You inherited this situation, but it has continued to worsen and we need bold leadership now to fix it.”</p> <p>Deputy Mayor Buery stressed that the city is committed to those fixes and is engaged in constant dialogue with the nonprofit sector, but change doesn’t happen overnight. “I think everybody understands that...problems that have taken decades to create, are not gonna be solved in one budget cycle, or two budget cycles,” he said, pointing out that the challenges faced by the sector aren’t a problem specific to the de Blasio administration but one faced by city government at large.</p> <p>Buery also said that the services provided by these nonprofits are particularly critical at a “vulnerable” time for the city, facing a period of economic slowdown and potential federal budget cuts.</p> <p>That vulnerability and uncertainty about the future is precisely why Sesso from HSC said the city needs to invest in nonprofits now, to shore up a sector that serves the city’s neediest population. And while she agrees that the crisis can’t be solved immediately, “It’s important they make a substantial move forward this year,” she said.</p> <p>Sesso commended the administration for creating the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee and ensuring ongoing conversations with nonprofits. But, she said, “As an advocate, until I see the money in the budget, I’m not satisfied. You can’t solve the problem through efficiencies alone.”</p> <p>The city budget cycle recently began with de Blasio’s presentation of his preliminary budget. It will continue with a round of City Council hearings, behind-the-scenes negotiation and lobbying, de Blasio’s executive budget, more hearings and negotiations, and a budget deal between the mayor and the Council by the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.</p> <p>The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, one of New York’s largest nonprofit service providers, has been pushing for increased funding not only in the city but also at the state level. And while the state has yet to engage with their efforts, the city’s initiatives are encouraging. “We’re seeing some evidence of interest in addressing the issue,” said Emily Miles, director of policy, advocacy and research for FPWA. Miles cited the minimum wage increase and the cost of living adjustment. “But there’s some ways to go,” she said.</p> <p>Miles and her colleague, policy analyst Carlyn Cowen, praised the administration for tackling structural issues and soliciting feedback from organizations through the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee, something prior administrations ignored. “Having everybody at the table is pretty unprecedented,” said Cowen. But they emphasized the pressing need to strengthen human services nonprofits, echoing Sesso’s warning of how federal policies may impact New Yorkers.</p> <p>For the administration, the fact that nonprofits are voicing their concerns is a badge of honor, Buery said. “The light that’s being shined on the problem is a good thing,” the deputy mayor told Gotham Gazette, “but it is in part a reaction to an administration which has been willing to shine that light and open that conversation.”</p> <p>Buery expects that dialogue will continue through the budget process as the city assesses revenue, and analyzes where best to allocate spending. “The mayor’s really shown his commitment to putting his money where his mouth is and so we intend to move forward with this sector to make sure we continue to do so,” he said.</p> <p>With the city economy humming, and jobs and tourism at record highs, de Blasio has rapidly increased the city budget over his three years as mayor. He has continued to announce new funding initiatives already this year.</p> <p>Asked at a news conference on Tuesday about the funding for nonprofits in his latest budget, Mayor de Blasio said, “I think the issue of how to make sure each preventive service organization does their job as best as possible is a broader qualitative question and to make sure we have enough of these services available when we need them for families in immediate need...we have to make sure the quantity and the quality is right. In the meantime we’re certainly looking for every opportunity to improve the dynamics for those workers and the compensation they get.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Time Is Now to Increase City Human Services Contracts 2017-02-10T01:29:52+00:00 2017-02-10T01:29:52+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6753:the-time-is-now-to-increase-city-human-services-contracts Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/urban_pathways_rally_outside_city_hall.jpg" alt="Urban Pathways rally outside city hall" width="600" height="469" /></p> <p>Urban Pathways members rally outside City Hall (photo via Urban Pathways)</p> <hr /> <p>In May 2015, my fellow Urban Pathways Board Member Gary Belsky rightfully <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/130-opinion/5732-lets-note-the-mayors-budget-investment-in-an-instrumental-workforce-belsky-cola" target="_blank">recognized</a> Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fiscal year 2016 budget investment in the human services nonprofit workforce. The investment -- a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment and an $11.50-per-hour wage floor, coupled with a subsequent City-funded $15 minimum wage -- rewarded a long neglected workforce instrumental to moving vulnerable New Yorkers and the City forward.</p> <p>However, as we approach the fiscal year 2018 budget, the mayor has more to do. It is now time for him to follow these laudable staff investments with a 12 percent increase in the city’s human services contracts themselves. Contract increases will act in concert with the enacted workforce investments. They will ensure we have human services organizations to employ the workers now deservedly earning a higher wage. (In 2013, nearly one in five city human services providers operated in the red, an indicator of potential closure.)</p> <p>Human services nonprofits serve the most vulnerable in our city, about 2.5 million New Yorkers each year. They provide early childhood education and after-school programs, run food pantries, provide mental health services, house persons experiencing homelessness, and care for the elderly, among many other community services. Urban Pathways, for example, assists homeless adults in the New York City metropolitan area through a continuum of services and supportive housing.</p> <p>Increases will enable us to provide ample training and affordable benefits to our staff. Years of flat funding from the city amid the rising costs of health care have complicated our ability to remain fiscally sound. This year, Urban Pathways endured another double-digit increase in our health care costs for our over 300 employees. Flat funding forces us to split these double-digit increases with our employees, resulting in increased co-pays and obligating us to modify our health insurance carrier.</p> <p>City contract increases will also reverse the tide of consistently underfunded contracts. In the past decade, the city has granted only one increase to its human services contracts. This has yielded barebones human services programs that should do more than merely subsist. Those whom we serve deserve that.<br />A consistent challenge Urban Pathways faces in operating our facilities for alternatives to shelter for homeless adults -- the Olivieri Drop-In Center, Hegeman Safe Haven and Travelers Safe Haven -- is inadequate city investment in the form of an underfunded Other Than Personal Services (OTPS) line. OTPS constitutes a significant line in the budgets of our Drop-In Center and Safe Havens. We draw on it to feed the 500 clients we annually serve at these programs so they have access to healthy food amid their paltry incomes. We use it to ensure our staff receives benefits and development to counter high turnover in our sector. We also rely on it to upgrade technology and make capital repairs so infrastructure remains sound. Our Safe Havens, like any other buildings, break and require maintenance.</p> <p>As a board member, I with countless others, invest time, money and personal equity in human services organizations across the city. We proudly do so because we recognize the value of these organizations. They are vital to the individuals receiving the services, our communities and the city overall. We also take our fiduciary duty seriously, and recognize that the challenges are growing and threaten the sustainability of these organizations.</p> <p>The time is now for the mayor to complete his work and enact a budget that includes a 12 percent increase in the city’s human services contracts. Let’s ensure human services organizations and their workforce can develop and run programs to their fullest capabilities.</p> <p>***<br />Kelley Gott has been an Executive Board Member of Urban Pathways since 2015.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/urban_pathways_rally_outside_city_hall.jpg" alt="Urban Pathways rally outside city hall" width="600" height="469" /></p> <p>Urban Pathways members rally outside City Hall (photo via Urban Pathways)</p> <hr /> <p>In May 2015, my fellow Urban Pathways Board Member Gary Belsky rightfully <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/130-opinion/5732-lets-note-the-mayors-budget-investment-in-an-instrumental-workforce-belsky-cola" target="_blank">recognized</a> Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fiscal year 2016 budget investment in the human services nonprofit workforce. The investment -- a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment and an $11.50-per-hour wage floor, coupled with a subsequent City-funded $15 minimum wage -- rewarded a long neglected workforce instrumental to moving vulnerable New Yorkers and the City forward.</p> <p>However, as we approach the fiscal year 2018 budget, the mayor has more to do. It is now time for him to follow these laudable staff investments with a 12 percent increase in the city’s human services contracts themselves. Contract increases will act in concert with the enacted workforce investments. They will ensure we have human services organizations to employ the workers now deservedly earning a higher wage. (In 2013, nearly one in five city human services providers operated in the red, an indicator of potential closure.)</p> <p>Human services nonprofits serve the most vulnerable in our city, about 2.5 million New Yorkers each year. They provide early childhood education and after-school programs, run food pantries, provide mental health services, house persons experiencing homelessness, and care for the elderly, among many other community services. Urban Pathways, for example, assists homeless adults in the New York City metropolitan area through a continuum of services and supportive housing.</p> <p>Increases will enable us to provide ample training and affordable benefits to our staff. Years of flat funding from the city amid the rising costs of health care have complicated our ability to remain fiscally sound. This year, Urban Pathways endured another double-digit increase in our health care costs for our over 300 employees. Flat funding forces us to split these double-digit increases with our employees, resulting in increased co-pays and obligating us to modify our health insurance carrier.</p> <p>City contract increases will also reverse the tide of consistently underfunded contracts. In the past decade, the city has granted only one increase to its human services contracts. This has yielded barebones human services programs that should do more than merely subsist. Those whom we serve deserve that.<br />A consistent challenge Urban Pathways faces in operating our facilities for alternatives to shelter for homeless adults -- the Olivieri Drop-In Center, Hegeman Safe Haven and Travelers Safe Haven -- is inadequate city investment in the form of an underfunded Other Than Personal Services (OTPS) line. OTPS constitutes a significant line in the budgets of our Drop-In Center and Safe Havens. We draw on it to feed the 500 clients we annually serve at these programs so they have access to healthy food amid their paltry incomes. We use it to ensure our staff receives benefits and development to counter high turnover in our sector. We also rely on it to upgrade technology and make capital repairs so infrastructure remains sound. Our Safe Havens, like any other buildings, break and require maintenance.</p> <p>As a board member, I with countless others, invest time, money and personal equity in human services organizations across the city. We proudly do so because we recognize the value of these organizations. They are vital to the individuals receiving the services, our communities and the city overall. We also take our fiduciary duty seriously, and recognize that the challenges are growing and threaten the sustainability of these organizations.</p> <p>The time is now for the mayor to complete his work and enact a budget that includes a 12 percent increase in the city’s human services contracts. Let’s ensure human services organizations and their workforce can develop and run programs to their fullest capabilities.</p> <p>***<br />Kelley Gott has been an Executive Board Member of Urban Pathways since 2015.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
Enacting a State Budget that Restores Opportunity 2017-02-01T05:00:00+00:00 2017-02-01T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6742:enacting-a-state-budget-that-restores-opportunity Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/human_services_council_presser.jpg" alt="human services council presser" width="600" height="442" /></p> <p>Seeking state budget changes (photo: Human Services Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Today -- Thursday, February 2 -- at 1 p.m., Urban Pathways, human services leaders, workers, and clients from downstate New York will gather at our Ivan Shapiro House, a supportive housing residence in Manhattan, to call on Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and Senate to strengthen the human services sector through cost-effective investment. We will also respond to an Executive Budget released by Gov. Cuomo that is devoid of this investment.</p> <p>In the Executive Budget, Gov. Cuomo laid out laudable proposals, including expansion of pre-kindergarten and afterschool programming, and addressing homelessness and the opioid epidemic. All have a worthy goal of increasing opportunity for individuals and families. However, the $152 billion budget plan invests little in the sector responsible for executing this vision: nonprofit human services.</p> <p>For example, to address homelessness, the budget appropriates $950 million for the construction of 6,000 supportive housing units throughout the state. Yet, an assessment of how the governor’s budget invests in compensating those who provide the support in supportive housing - human services case managers, security, maintenance, and administrative assistants - shows glaring shortcomings.</p> <p>The fiscal year 2018 Executive Budget briefing book put out by the Cuomo administration acknowledges our “nonprofit labor force includes a large number of low- wage workers.” However, the budget is devoid of a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for our workers, freezing their income as their housing costs only rise. The governor has recognized the increasing costs of housing, but his budget does not reflect how hard it is for some of the state’s most important workers to afford their own places to live.</p> <p>The governor’s budget also eliminates the planned 0.8 percent human services COLA. It also discontinues the COLA enacted in 2015 to certain direct care workers and direct service providers.</p> <p>The State did enact a phase-in plan for a $15 minimum wage last year, which we appreciate. Our workers should not live in poverty. However, the governor has yet to fund the minimum wage increase for human services workers under contract with the state, leaving our sector to absorb the cost. He acknowledged the economic hardship that the increase imposes, suggesting his budget division could grant organizations a state reimbursement based on hardship. The governor should provide the necessary budget dollars instead of requiring us to demonstrate hardship. This is about organizations doing the most important work being able to pay their workforce without having to lay off employees.</p> <p>The budget fails to consider the long-term success of its proposals, shortchanging all New Yorkers. For example, the staff of the new supportive housing units works years without a cost of living adjustment, ultimately leaving to work for a sector with COLAs. This means another new case manager for our clients. This interrupts the continuity in the clients’ care and jeopardizes their path to self-sufficiency. It also costs the supportive housing provider to hire and train new staff, which impedes the delivery of services for the client.</p> <p>Currently, over 340 human services organizations across New York State are coming together for the Restore Opportunity Campaign. The campaign asks for increased investment in our sector to ensure we can continue to effectively serve our communities. The campaign recommends Gov. Cuomo do the following:</p> <p>1. reverse the trend of defunding human services programs;</p> <p>2. fund the cost of the minimum wage increase for human services workers; and</p> <p>3. continue to invest in the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Improvement Program.</p> <p>Across the state, the Restore Opportunity Campaign is holding press conferences to stress that the state can do better for its communities. This past week, the Human Services Leadership Council of Central NY and the Southern Tier Independence Center held press conferences in Syracuse and Binghamton, two of several cities in the state with child poverty rates above 50 percent. The campaign has also held a press conference in Albany where one-third of households are rent-burdened, paying 30 percent of their income on rent.</p> <p>This is the year to enact a state budget that restores opportunity for all New Yorkers. We urge Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature to stand with us and communities by investing in the organizations that strengthen our state and people every day.</p> <p>***<br />Nicole Bramstedt is Policy Director at Urban Pathways. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/UrbanPathwaysNY" target="_blank">@UrbanPathwaysNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/human_services_council_presser.jpg" alt="human services council presser" width="600" height="442" /></p> <p>Seeking state budget changes (photo: Human Services Council)</p> <hr /> <p>Today -- Thursday, February 2 -- at 1 p.m., Urban Pathways, human services leaders, workers, and clients from downstate New York will gather at our Ivan Shapiro House, a supportive housing residence in Manhattan, to call on Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and Senate to strengthen the human services sector through cost-effective investment. We will also respond to an Executive Budget released by Gov. Cuomo that is devoid of this investment.</p> <p>In the Executive Budget, Gov. Cuomo laid out laudable proposals, including expansion of pre-kindergarten and afterschool programming, and addressing homelessness and the opioid epidemic. All have a worthy goal of increasing opportunity for individuals and families. However, the $152 billion budget plan invests little in the sector responsible for executing this vision: nonprofit human services.</p> <p>For example, to address homelessness, the budget appropriates $950 million for the construction of 6,000 supportive housing units throughout the state. Yet, an assessment of how the governor’s budget invests in compensating those who provide the support in supportive housing - human services case managers, security, maintenance, and administrative assistants - shows glaring shortcomings.</p> <p>The fiscal year 2018 Executive Budget briefing book put out by the Cuomo administration acknowledges our “nonprofit labor force includes a large number of low- wage workers.” However, the budget is devoid of a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for our workers, freezing their income as their housing costs only rise. The governor has recognized the increasing costs of housing, but his budget does not reflect how hard it is for some of the state’s most important workers to afford their own places to live.</p> <p>The governor’s budget also eliminates the planned 0.8 percent human services COLA. It also discontinues the COLA enacted in 2015 to certain direct care workers and direct service providers.</p> <p>The State did enact a phase-in plan for a $15 minimum wage last year, which we appreciate. Our workers should not live in poverty. However, the governor has yet to fund the minimum wage increase for human services workers under contract with the state, leaving our sector to absorb the cost. He acknowledged the economic hardship that the increase imposes, suggesting his budget division could grant organizations a state reimbursement based on hardship. The governor should provide the necessary budget dollars instead of requiring us to demonstrate hardship. This is about organizations doing the most important work being able to pay their workforce without having to lay off employees.</p> <p>The budget fails to consider the long-term success of its proposals, shortchanging all New Yorkers. For example, the staff of the new supportive housing units works years without a cost of living adjustment, ultimately leaving to work for a sector with COLAs. This means another new case manager for our clients. This interrupts the continuity in the clients’ care and jeopardizes their path to self-sufficiency. It also costs the supportive housing provider to hire and train new staff, which impedes the delivery of services for the client.</p> <p>Currently, over 340 human services organizations across New York State are coming together for the Restore Opportunity Campaign. The campaign asks for increased investment in our sector to ensure we can continue to effectively serve our communities. The campaign recommends Gov. Cuomo do the following:</p> <p>1. reverse the trend of defunding human services programs;</p> <p>2. fund the cost of the minimum wage increase for human services workers; and</p> <p>3. continue to invest in the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Improvement Program.</p> <p>Across the state, the Restore Opportunity Campaign is holding press conferences to stress that the state can do better for its communities. This past week, the Human Services Leadership Council of Central NY and the Southern Tier Independence Center held press conferences in Syracuse and Binghamton, two of several cities in the state with child poverty rates above 50 percent. The campaign has also held a press conference in Albany where one-third of households are rent-burdened, paying 30 percent of their income on rent.</p> <p>This is the year to enact a state budget that restores opportunity for all New Yorkers. We urge Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature to stand with us and communities by investing in the organizations that strengthen our state and people every day.</p> <p>***<br />Nicole Bramstedt is Policy Director at Urban Pathways. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/UrbanPathwaysNY" target="_blank">@UrbanPathwaysNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
Push Continues for Budget Boost to City Contracted Nonprofits 2016-05-27T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6364:push-continues-for-budget-boost-to-city-contracted-nonprofits Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/hsc_rally_city_hall.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="hsc rally city hall" /></p> <p>The Human Services Council and City Council Members rally at City Hall</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">On a hot and sunny day, dozens of nonprofit workers took to the steps of City Hall to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund a 2.5 percent increase for the administrative costs of nonprofits that contract with the city. Forty-seven of 51 City Council members have signed on to a&nbsp;<a href="http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FINAL-Contracts-OTPS_Budget-Letter-5-23-2016.pdf" target="_blank">letter</a> to de Blasio asking him to baseline the increase, an additional $25 million annually, into the budget as the city moves toward adopting a new spending plan. A budget deal between de Blasio and the Council is due by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">As nonprofits and their employees have strained under increasing costs for space, staff, and programming, sector leaders, workers, and legislators are pointing to what they say are flaws in how the city budgets funding for vital services.</p> <p dir="ltr">The human services nonprofits requesting more funding from the city provide a wide range of services to the city’s most vulnerable, including foster care, homelessness services, mental health care, immigrant services, early childhood literacy and after-school programs, home-care for the elderly, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city is required to provide many of these support services, but contracts them out to nonprofits to save money and increase efficiency. However, many of these nonprofits are on the brink of insolvency and are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">borrowing from banks</a> to meet payroll and provide services due in part to decades of underfunding from federal, state, and city government.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’ve had to make some really hard decisions in this past year,” said Marla Simpson, executive director of Brooklyn Community Services. “I can think of two programs that are very well run and much needed in our communities where we have had to choose to not fill vacant positions because we cannot afford to put the staff in that position and also pay the rent or the insurance bill.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The increase in “other than personnel funding” that nearly the entire City Council and a coalition of human services nonprofits - including the Human Services Council, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the New York Immigration Coalition, Urban Pathways, and the Center Against Domestic Violence - are asking for would help city contracted nonprofits to afford staff development, rent, repairs, equipment, and technology. (City Council Members who did not sign the letter to de Blasio were Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dan Garodnick and David Greenfield)</p> <p dir="ltr">These nonprofits are “consistently paid 80 cents for every dollar of work,” said chair of the Contracts Committee Helen Rosenthal, who spearheaded the letter to the mayor, referring to the fact that although government contracts account for the majority of nonprofits’ budgets, they pay roughly&nbsp;<a href="http://www.humanservicescouncil.org/Commission/HSCCommissionReport.pdf" target="_blank">80 cents or less</a> of each dollar of true program delivery costs. “Human services providers need funding…in order to effectively serve the at least 2.5 million New Yorkers in their care,” Rosenthal added.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5960-hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable" target="_blank">taken steps</a> to improve conditions for workers in the human services nonprofit sector, which employs over 200,000 New Yorkers, a majority of whom are women (four out of every five workers). In May of last year, de Blasio included a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment increase for some of the city’s human services providers, and this January,&nbsp;<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/019-16/mayor-de-blasio-guaranteed-15-minimum-wage-all-city-government-employees--" target="_blank">announced</a> a $15 minimum wage for all workers contracted by the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet more needs to be done, Council members and advocates say, to meet the demands of a sector whose workers are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5960-hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable" target="_blank">increasingly in need</a> of the types of safety net programs (like Medicaid and food stamps) that they help to provide for others. The extra $25 million in funding is a relatively small ask in terms of the city’s overall $82.2 billion executive budget, said some present at Thursday’s rally.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The city relies on nonprofit human services providers to deliver essential services on their behalf, but government contracts continually fail to cover the full cost of programs and payment is often late and unpredictable,” said Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council. “This chronic underfunding prevents nonprofits from being able to make important investments in things like technology, building maintenance, and employee training, which compromises the quality of important programs and services on which countless individuals and families depend.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday’s rally and the letter to the mayor come after&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5960-hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable" target="_blank">two oversight hearings</a> on contracts in the past year, one of which was prompted by the release of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.humanservicescouncil.org/Commission/HSCCommissionReport.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from the Human Services Council that painted the picture of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">sector in crisis</a>: underfunded contracts with the city create budget gaps and diminish the quality of services nonprofits can provide, and contract payment is chronically late, forcing providers to turn to costly borrowing to meet their organization’s needs, often accruing interest that is not covered by government contracts.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If the city wants to build a bridge, if the city wants to build infrastructure, the city puts money in the budget into that. And if costs go over, we put more money in the budget to do that. That’s what we do for infrastructure in this city, and that’s what we have to start doing for our human services contracts,” Rosenthal said at the rally.</p> <p>“If costs go over, we have to put more money in the budget,” Rosenthal concluded, returning to a comparison she made during the last <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">contracts oversight hearing</a> about the fact that many human services nonprofits are told to seek grants and other funding methods to account for the expenses that their government-funded contracts do not cover. At the time, Rosenthal pointed out that the city would never hire a construction company to build a $40 million bridge, then say to the construction company, “‘We’re going to pay you $35 million. Try to get philanthropy, foundations, or other jobs that you do to pay for the remaining $5 million.’”</p> <p>

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by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/hsc_rally_city_hall.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="hsc rally city hall" /></p> <p>The Human Services Council and City Council Members rally at City Hall</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">On a hot and sunny day, dozens of nonprofit workers took to the steps of City Hall to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund a 2.5 percent increase for the administrative costs of nonprofits that contract with the city. Forty-seven of 51 City Council members have signed on to a&nbsp;<a href="http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FINAL-Contracts-OTPS_Budget-Letter-5-23-2016.pdf" target="_blank">letter</a> to de Blasio asking him to baseline the increase, an additional $25 million annually, into the budget as the city moves toward adopting a new spending plan. A budget deal between de Blasio and the Council is due by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">As nonprofits and their employees have strained under increasing costs for space, staff, and programming, sector leaders, workers, and legislators are pointing to what they say are flaws in how the city budgets funding for vital services.</p> <p dir="ltr">The human services nonprofits requesting more funding from the city provide a wide range of services to the city’s most vulnerable, including foster care, homelessness services, mental health care, immigrant services, early childhood literacy and after-school programs, home-care for the elderly, and more.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city is required to provide many of these support services, but contracts them out to nonprofits to save money and increase efficiency. However, many of these nonprofits are on the brink of insolvency and are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">borrowing from banks</a> to meet payroll and provide services due in part to decades of underfunding from federal, state, and city government.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’ve had to make some really hard decisions in this past year,” said Marla Simpson, executive director of Brooklyn Community Services. “I can think of two programs that are very well run and much needed in our communities where we have had to choose to not fill vacant positions because we cannot afford to put the staff in that position and also pay the rent or the insurance bill.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The increase in “other than personnel funding” that nearly the entire City Council and a coalition of human services nonprofits - including the Human Services Council, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the New York Immigration Coalition, Urban Pathways, and the Center Against Domestic Violence - are asking for would help city contracted nonprofits to afford staff development, rent, repairs, equipment, and technology. (City Council Members who did not sign the letter to de Blasio were Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dan Garodnick and David Greenfield)</p> <p dir="ltr">These nonprofits are “consistently paid 80 cents for every dollar of work,” said chair of the Contracts Committee Helen Rosenthal, who spearheaded the letter to the mayor, referring to the fact that although government contracts account for the majority of nonprofits’ budgets, they pay roughly&nbsp;<a href="http://www.humanservicescouncil.org/Commission/HSCCommissionReport.pdf" target="_blank">80 cents or less</a> of each dollar of true program delivery costs. “Human services providers need funding…in order to effectively serve the at least 2.5 million New Yorkers in their care,” Rosenthal added.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5960-hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable" target="_blank">taken steps</a> to improve conditions for workers in the human services nonprofit sector, which employs over 200,000 New Yorkers, a majority of whom are women (four out of every five workers). In May of last year, de Blasio included a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment increase for some of the city’s human services providers, and this January,&nbsp;<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/019-16/mayor-de-blasio-guaranteed-15-minimum-wage-all-city-government-employees--" target="_blank">announced</a> a $15 minimum wage for all workers contracted by the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet more needs to be done, Council members and advocates say, to meet the demands of a sector whose workers are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5960-hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable" target="_blank">increasingly in need</a> of the types of safety net programs (like Medicaid and food stamps) that they help to provide for others. The extra $25 million in funding is a relatively small ask in terms of the city’s overall $82.2 billion executive budget, said some present at Thursday’s rally.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The city relies on nonprofit human services providers to deliver essential services on their behalf, but government contracts continually fail to cover the full cost of programs and payment is often late and unpredictable,” said Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council. “This chronic underfunding prevents nonprofits from being able to make important investments in things like technology, building maintenance, and employee training, which compromises the quality of important programs and services on which countless individuals and families depend.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Thursday’s rally and the letter to the mayor come after&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5960-hearing-will-examine-pay-for-workers-serving-citys-most-vulnerable" target="_blank">two oversight hearings</a> on contracts in the past year, one of which was prompted by the release of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.humanservicescouncil.org/Commission/HSCCommissionReport.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from the Human Services Council that painted the picture of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">sector in crisis</a>: underfunded contracts with the city create budget gaps and diminish the quality of services nonprofits can provide, and contract payment is chronically late, forcing providers to turn to costly borrowing to meet their organization’s needs, often accruing interest that is not covered by government contracts.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If the city wants to build a bridge, if the city wants to build infrastructure, the city puts money in the budget into that. And if costs go over, we put more money in the budget to do that. That’s what we do for infrastructure in this city, and that’s what we have to start doing for our human services contracts,” Rosenthal said at the rally.</p> <p>“If costs go over, we have to put more money in the budget,” Rosenthal concluded, returning to a comparison she made during the last <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6266-city-approach-to-nonprofit-contracting-questioned" target="_blank">contracts oversight hearing</a> about the fact that many human services nonprofits are told to seek grants and other funding methods to account for the expenses that their government-funded contracts do not cover. At the time, Rosenthal pointed out that the city would never hire a construction company to build a $40 million bridge, then say to the construction company, “‘We’re going to pay you $35 million. Try to get philanthropy, foundations, or other jobs that you do to pay for the remaining $5 million.’”</p> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>