Improvement in Disaster Readiness, But Rigorous Efforts Remain Necessary

Following a Comprehensive Research Initiative, HSC Reports on the State of Disaster Readiness in the Human Services Sector

Disaster Preparedness 2016 Report CoverAt a forum organized by HSC on August 3rd on the subject of disaster preparedness, HSC released a report of findings and recommendations of a four-month study examining the disaster-related practices and perceptions of NYC-based human services.

HSC performed the project in cooperation with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which provided funding and input, along with the Baruch College School of Public and International Affairs, which played a vital role in conducting research.

Of 582 human services leaders invited to participate in an extensive online survey, 210 took part, translating to a 36% response rate, which considerably exceeds average response rates – an encouraging finding in itself, suggesting a strong interest in the subject.  Complementing the survey were focus groups and individualized interviews.

Consistent with the high awareness demonstrated by the survey response rate, an encouraging finding is that the majority of respondents reported that their organizations have recently developed written Emergency Response and Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans. Large organizations are far more likely to develop such plans than small ones, and most organizations of all sizes have yet to enter into partnerships with other organizations allowing for coordinated planning around post-disaster service delivery.

This subject of coordination was explored extensively in the survey and what emerged, quite notably, is that many human services leaders are unsure as to which government entity they should relate. To a significant extent, they believe that NYC Emergency Management leads the immediate response to disasters, but they question which office assumes that role as short-term relief efforts give way to long-term recovery programs.

Begging attention, findings regarding funding were striking. Respectively, 92%, 93%, and 93% of respondents reported that they lacked funds for disaster preparedness, immediate response to disasters, and long-term disaster recovery.

Among HSC’s recommendations are:

  • Establishing a high-level City government office responsible for coordinating disaster-related efforts with the human services sector and NYC Emergency Management and the numerous other government agencies which deal with disasters
  • Establishing a Human Services Operations Center to serve as a counterpart to the City’s Emergency Command Center and, related, developing a human services sector-wide system of post-disaster communication
  • Better integrating grassroots organizations into disaster preparedness and response efforts
  • Developing funding mechanisms that permit human services organizations to prepare and respond to disasters with less risk to destabilizing their budgets
  • Allowing for flexibility within ongoing government contracts for human services – as examples, enabling a child care center to convert to a community center, or a senior center to a senior-visiting program

HSC is concerned that the delays and disruptions that occurred following Sandy, which resulted in unnecessary distress to those affected, would be repeated if another major disaster were to occur imminently — particularly as lessons learned and relationships established fade.

At the same time, we are encouraged that a trend to greater preparedness is increasing and that heightened partnership between the human services sector and government is taking hold – evidenced at our recent forum, in the efforts of a Mayoral task-force on this topic that will soon issue recommendations, and in our own ongoing collaboration with NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

We anticipate much continuing progress over the next months.

Contributed by Danny Rosenthal. Danny Rosenthal is a consultant to nonprofit organizations and a free-lance writer.

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Let’s Get Ready: HSC’S Disaster Forum Sparks Inter-Sector Dialogue and Spurs Planning Efforts

On August 3, HSC asked a gathering of more than 100 leaders from NYC’s human services sector and the City, State, and Federal government: if we are beset by another disaster such as 9/11 or Sandy, Are We Ready?

The answer, decidedly, was No — but with the acknowledgement that we have achieved significant progress and that we are poised for an upgraded partnership between the human services sector and government that will position us to bring post-disaster support to affected communities in ways that are faster and better coordinated than ever in the past.

20160803_091026New York City Deputy Mayor Dr. Herminia Palacio, a veteran of the Katrina recovery, provided opening remarks that established a collaborative if sobering tone.  She spoke of the vital nature of the joint effort that must occur between government and human services organizations and she contradicted the axiom that disasters do not discriminate. Inequities with which low-income populations are already suffering are only amplified after disasters, she commented, and she asserted that our planning must take this factor prominently into account.

Disaster Preparedness 2016 Report CoverFollowing Deputy Mayor Palacio, HSC Executive Director Allison Sesso also expressed the importance of a structured and ongoing relationship between the human services sector and government, and she highlighted the findings of a just-completed research effort led by HSC in cooperation with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and CUNY Baruch that gauged the degree to which the human services sector is prepared for disaster.

Among numerous recommendations, the report calls for:

  • establishment of a high-level City government office charged with coordinating with the human services sector and relevant government agencies regarding disaster-related matters;
  • better engaging grassroots organizations in disaster planning and response; and
  • ensuring that human services are financially equipped to deal with disasters.

For a summary of the recommendations, click here.

20160803_123140The session concluded with a panel entitled “Pushing Forward,” designed to arrive at consensus about the priorities to be collectively addressed. The group agreed about the imperative of a relationship between the human services sector and government characterized by candor and flexibility; a need for clarity about the roles and responsibilities of government entities; and that strenuous efforts should be made to ensure that human services organizations engaged in disaster work are equipped to do so while also continuing to pursue their everyday missions.

“We’re pleased about the tenor of this discussion and we expect that our collective state of readiness will improve, said Allison Sesso. But goodwill and a good conference cannot be cause for contentment.  We need to move forward aggressively.  What if disaster hits tomorrow?”

Contributed by Danny Rosenthal. Danny Rosenthal is a consultant to nonprofit organizations and a free-lance writer.

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Government Contracting Delays Hurt Nonprofits and Communities

Although New Yorkers from all walks of life rely upon nonprofits to provide vital services, nonprofits can neither count on the government to pay them on time nor in full, despite New York State’s preexisting laws. The State’s human services providers continue to face the epidemic of late contracting, which has a detrimental effect on both the organizations themselves and the communities they serve.  According to the most recent annual prompt contracting report released by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, State agencies processed 61 percent of their nonprofit contracts late in 2015.   While this is certainly an improvement from 2014, when the State processed a staggering 77 percent of its nonprofit contracts late, the percentage is still unacceptably high and jeopardizes the ability of nonprofits to carry out their mission. [1] Last year, the government spent $129,824 of taxpayer dollars paying interest on delayed contracts, which is money that could actually be spent providing nonprofits with the funds they need to aid the communities they support. Furthermore, the $130K is only a fraction of what the nonprofits were owed; indeed, the government paid interest on only 22% (303) of the 1,379 eligible contracts.

In 1991, the State passed the Prompt Contacting Law, which was intended to prevent delays by requiring State agencies to process contracts within 150 to 180 days. Furthermore, a 2007 amendment requires the Comptroller to release an annual report detailing if agencies meet the time frame and if not, offer reasons for delay.[2]  The law provides for interest payments on late contracts to prevent financial hardship.  Unfortunately, the law also allows nonprofits to waive their right to these interest payments, and many human services contracts contain waiver clauses.  Providers believe that they have no leverage when the government presents them with a contract that includes a waiver clause; they are fearful that if they challenge the clause, the government will simply find another group to provide the service. As such, 25 years after the adoption of the Prompt Contracting Law, government continues to process the majority of its nonprofit contracts late, without paying interest in most cases—and nonprofits end up paying the penalty for government’s bad contracting practices. The law thus should be amended to include stringent criteria for when a waiver is permissible.

Through thousands of contracts, the State relies on the nonprofit sector to provide vital services to New Yorkers. In New York State, over 91,000 nonprofits provide a plethora of services including disaster relief, homeless shelters, food pantries, literacy program, and elder care.[3] The breadth of services available means that those who receive them are not just those living below the poverty line but those with differing races, genders, ages and socioeconomic statuses. In addition to providing services, the nonprofit sector also accounts for a significant portion of the New York State workforce; according to an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute, there are 250,000 private sector social service workers in New York.[4]

Nonprofits are forced to compensate for the government’s late contracting by taking out loans, furloughing staff or scaling back services. [5] These actions have the deleterious effect of not only compromising the wellbeing of the individuals employed by the sector but also risking the health of the estimated 2.5 million New Yorkers who utilize the provided services .[6] The real world result of the government’s late contracting is, perhaps, shutting down the local child care center, diminishing the amount of vocational training available to veterans or halting the provision of mental health counseling.

The monumental problems facing human services providers are epitomized by the disastrous 2015 closing of Federation Employment and Guidance Service (FEGS), one of the largest human services providers in New York. In the wake of the closing, HSC released an extensive report both with reflections on the current state of the human services sector and recommendations to prevent a similar scenario to FEGS in the future. One of these recommendations was “timely and reliable payments by government.” HSC identified that due to organizations’ lack of cash reserves, uneven payments on performance-based contracts make it extremely difficult to budget and pay personnel and operating expenses, which obviously do not evaporate even when payments are nonexistent.[7] Furthermore, as recommended by Comptroller DiNapoli, prompt contracting interest should be automatically calculated in order to help ensure that the non for profits receive their owed interest.[8]

Government relies on nonprofits, and nonprofits must be able to rely upon the government’s timely and complete payments in order to fulfill their mission. Ultimately, the government must become cognizant of the fact that by paying contracts late and by not providing interest payments they are harming both the nonprofit human services delivery system and the communities that rely upon the services the nonprofits offer.  Accordingly, HSC continues to advocate meaningful contracting and payment reform.

Contributed by Edith Herwitz of the Human Services Council.









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2016 State Legislative Session Wrap-up

The 2016 legislative session came to a close this month with little fanfare.  While our representatives agreed on fantasy sports and Sunday morning alcohol sales (the “Brunch Bill”), meaningful ethics reform and closing the LLC loophole eluded consensus.  A number of new bills and reintroductions would affect the human services sector, but few were passed.  In the last-minute frenzy of legislation, a bill that was intended to increase lobbying and campaign finance transparency (Senate Bill 8160) sailed through both chambers in one day.  Among other provisions, this legislation includes additional reporting requirements for nonprofits that give money, goods, or services to 501(c)(4) organizations.  The Governor has not yet signed the bill, and at this time, we believe that it will have very limited application to nonprofit organizations.

HSC worked behind the scenes with many of its partners to advocate for or against certain policies and bills during this biennium.  Our most significant victories, which we secured with through ongoing collaboration with our partners and members, were the minimum wage increase and the expansion of the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program (NICIP).  We also collaborated with our supportive housing and behavioral health partners to oppose NIMBY bills that would have severely limited the opening and relocation of social services programs.  Those bills did not make it out of the Legislature.  Meanwhile, we helped move a bill allowing nonprofits to make purchases through county cooperative purchasing agreements through both chambers.

In addition to our advocacy, HSC established relationships with Senator Robert G. Ortt (R/C/I – 62), who has sponsored several bills that would benefit the nonprofit human services sector, and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D/I/WF – 35), who sponsored the cooperative purchasing bill.  We look forward to developing and leveraging these partnerships throughout the year so that we are better positioned to influence policy in the next session.  We thank Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi, who continues to be a strong voice for our sector, for his ongoing support and collaboration.  Below are some of the key bills that would affect the human services sector.  Note that while the first four have passed the Senate and the Assembly, they must be signed by the Governor to become law.


Contributed by Edith Herwitz of the Human Services Council

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HHS Accelerator Report

This month, the Human Services Council released its report on the initial impact of HHS Accelerator and, as a follow-up to the report, held a focus group meeting that allowed providers to share their feedback directly with the HHS Accelerator team. This is the latest example of HSC’s ongoing commitment to working with providers and government to streamline the way they do business. By improving the business relationship, we strengthen providers’ ability to deliver high-quality services to New Yorkers who need them.

New York City launched HHS Accelerator in 2013 to address the core challenges of the human services procurement process. The result of a detailed dialogue between the City government and the Human Services Council of New York and its members, this technology-driven solution standardizes the solicitation and contracting processes. The well-being of many human services organizations and of their clients in New York City depends on government procurement and contracting.

However, until nearly two years ago, identifying and responding to RFPs was a challenge. HHS Accelerator was launched to address the difficulties in procurement and contracting. Accelerator allows providers to store frequently requested documents, prequalify before competing for funds, apply for and manage contract awards online, and to track and submit financials.

HSC recognizes that HHS Accelerator is a drastic improvement but is also a work in progress. Based on a survey and interviews with our member organizations, HSC has produced a report on the initial impact of HHS Accelerator. Overall, HHS Accelerator has had a positive impact on the procurement process.

Before Accelerator, the process of procurement was overwhelmingly paper-driven, inefficient, and redundant. However, now the majority of providers consider the procurement process to be more efficient and straightforward. One serious problem before Accelerator was duplication of effort. For example, the same agency requesting the same document multiple times, or having to submit the exact same document to multiple agencies. The time spent sending in duplicate documents is valuable time that could be spent on providing essential services. HHS Accelerator has significantly improved on the hassle of duplication. Providers can upload documents to the Document Vault, which are then accessible by many City agencies. Accelerator has reduced the administrative burden of the solicitation process.

In addition, Accelerator has reduced inconsistency among and within agencies. Before the online system was introduced, each agency had its own procurement process. The majority of providers contract with multiple City agencies, however, so they would have to submit the same information in different formats. For example, every provider had to demonstrate its past experience in a service area to be qualified to apply for contracts in that area. With Accelerator, there is a uniform prequalification process that applies to all City human services agencies. Again, any time saved is indispensable in the nonprofit human services sector.

Before Accelerator, each agency also had its own process for publishing and notifying providers of RFPs. Trying to find opportunities meant either spending large amounts of time searching, or missing out on relevant prospects. Opportunities would be communicated in a myriad of ways, from email and mailing lists to private RFP services and word of mouth. HHS Accelerator asks providers to specify what services they provide and then identifies opportunities based on their selections. Accelerator is now the most relied upon source for finding RFPs, and the majority of survey responders indicated that Accelerator has made RFP identification easier.

The report provides much more in-depth analysis of the changes HHS Accelerator has brought about and how they affect providers’ procurement experience. The report also features ways in which respondents believe the procurement and contracting process and HHS Accelerator could be further improved. Overall, Accelerator has made life less stressful for providers, and the suggested improvements will make providing services to communities in need even easier.

To continue the streamlining process, HSC recently convened personnel from our member organizations and the HHS Accelerator team for a feedback-driven focus group. Not only did the entire HHS Accelerator team attend the meeting, but they led the group in an overview of updated features and a discussion about the user experience. Topics examined included the new RFP format, the document vault, file size, alerts, and trainings; those in attendance offered feedback on those and several other areas. The focus group was a success: not only was there a fantastic attendance from service providers and the Mayor’s Office of Operations, but the Accelerator team was incredibly open to feedback. We are looking forward to another focus group meeting and a continued partnership to improve and expand the system.

HHS Accelerator team and HSC members going over Accelerator updates and features

HHS Accelerator team and HSC members attending focus group meeting

Contributed by Elizabeth Yates of the Human Services Council.

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2.5% Cost of Living Adjustment for New York City’s Human Services Workers

HSC launched the 5and5COLA campaign earlier this year to advocate for a cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the human services sector. It has been seven years since our dedicated workers have seen a raise despite the economic recovery and the increased cost of living in New York. HSC’s 5and5COLA initiative calls for a 5 percent increase this year and 5 percent increase next year for a total of 10 percent by 2016 for the human services sector.

To kick off our campaign, representatives from more than 30 human services organizations gathered in front of City Hall on Monday, April 27th to express the importance of an investment in human services through a COLA. There were speeches from Councilmember Ydandis Rodriguez, Wayne Ho, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA),  Igal Jellinek, LiveOn NY, Angela Gonzalez, Women in Need (WIN), and Gregory Brender, United Neighborhood Houses of New York.  All of them stressed the importance of the human services sector in keeping our communities thriving and what a COLA would mean for the human services workforce.

Our sector provides over $5.5 billion in services including job placement, community services, afterschool enrichment, and assistance to immigrants. Our sector’s employees dedicate themselves to improving the lives of New Yorkers, making a difference in their communities, and contributing to New York’s economy. This sector’s workforce is the foundation that strengthens New York.

However, as Wayne Ho pointed out at our rally, “The people who work in our sector look like the clients they are serving. They are eligible for the services that we are providing. Over 50 percent of employees in social services agencies earn less than $14 an hour. The mass majority of these are women are and people of color.” As the lowest paid workforce in NY, the lack of a COLA has created a high turnover rate and negatively impacts the clients who constantly have to change their caseworkers. “It has been increasingly hard to fill the positions with the salaries we offer. Invariably that hurts services to the women we serve,” said Bobby Watts from Care for the Homeless.[1]

A COLA would go a long way to strengthen the City’s safety net and promote equality for all New Yorkers. Igal Jellinek explained, “Inequality of wages now leads to a vicious cycle where those that service older adults will then become poor older adults themselves.” Mayor de Blasio has released bold goals and specific targets to contribute to and strengthen the environment and economic stability of New York in his OneNYC Plan.[2] While we support Mayor de Blasio’s efforts in funding programs that fight poverty, we would like to stress the human services workforce are critical partners in helping reach his goal of lifting 800,000 people out of poverty. [3]

The 2.5% increase COLA included in the FY16 Executive Budget, along with a $11.50/hour floor wage increase for social service workers, is a good start towards accomplishing Mayor de Blasio’s goal.[4] Although the change we have seen thus far is not all we proposed, it is still a step in the right direction. As the Administration moves ahead with its plans to fight inequality in NYC, we must remember the importance of providing living wages for the human services workers who play a vital role in helping those in need in New York’s communities. HSC will continue fight for the human services sector and for additional increases in the future to continue to stabilize and strengthen our critical work.

[1] Human Services Council Leads #5and5COLA

[2] Mayor de Blasio’s One NYC Plan

[3]  Mayor de Blasio Releases One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City

[4] Policy Update: 2.5% COLA in FY16 Executive Budget

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HSC’s Joins the Fight for $15

Michelle Jackson speaking at the release of Comptroller Stringers Report: “Raising the Minimum Wage in New York City to $15 Per-Hour Will Put $10 Billion into the Pockets of Nearly 1.5 Million Workers”

Michelle Jackson speaking at the release of Comptroller Stringers Report: “Raising the Minimum Wage in New York City to $15 Per-Hour Will Put $10 Billion into the Pockets of Nearly 1.5 Million Workers”

The Fight for $15 has swept the nation as a rally-turned-movement to raise the wages of workers across the country. The goal of the Fight for $15 is to combat the gap between the minimum wage and the cost of living which creates a growing population of working poor. This increase is needed to improve the lives of thousands of New Yorkers who struggle to provide for their households, even as full time workers.

The lack of a living wage has increased the need for human services as New Yorkers try to make ends meet. More people are coming through the doors of our agencies every day. Many of our programs help New Yorkers reach self-sufficiency by teaching job training skills, helping people find employment, or providing job supports like child-care. However, the gains from these programs are lost when thousands of jobs across New York do not pay a living wage. In addition, years of flat funding by government agencies have left the human services sector hard pressed to keep up with the increased demand of providing for those in need.

HSC came out on the April 15 Day of Action in support of the Fight for $15 because we know that a living wage for New Yorkers would transform our neighborhoods and our City. A new report released by Comptroller Scott Stringer stresses the impact this will have on both workers and businesses. His report found that raising the minimum wage to $15 per-hour in New York City by 2019 would boost wages by $10 billion a year and benefit nearly 1.5 million workers in the City.[1] This boost would also increase household spending, decrease the amount spent on individuals who are eligible for Food Stamps and Medicaid by $200 to $500 million annually, and increase the amount of taxes collected by the City.[2]

The importance of having living wage jobs in our communities cannot be overlooked. Mayor de Blasio has released his OneNYC plan with the goal of lifting 800,000 people out of poverty by 2025.[3] A report by the Center for Economic Opportunity shows that increasing the minimum wage to $15 per-hour will be important to helping him meet his goal.[4] Raising the minimum wage would mean a better way of living in New York City and make it easier for employees to provide for themselves and their families. The Fight for $15 Rally brings us closer to that goal.

[1] Comptroller Stringer Report: Raising Minimum Wage in New York City to $15 Per-Hour Will Put $10 Billion into the Pockets of Nearly 1.5 Million Workers

[2] Comptroller Stringer Report: Raising Minimum Wage in New York City to $15 Per-Hour Will Put $10 Billion into the Pockets of Nearly 1.5 Million Workers

[3] One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City

[4] Report: City’s Anti-poverty Goal Requires $15 Minimum Wage

Contributed by Jovonne Cameron of the Human Services Council


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Major Wins for New York’s Immigrant Communities

This summer has granted major victories for immigrant communities throughout New York City. With the release of the NYC budget, $10.3 million dollars was slated solely for the expansion of programs and services for immigrant communities; programs including Adult Literacy, the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative, and the Cultural Immigrant Initiative all received additional funding in the FY15 City budget. A historic victory for the City is the expansion of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project – allowing NYC to become the first jurisdiction ever with a public defender system specifically for detained immigrants facing deportation. With $4.9 million dollars of funding, this project will ensure families will no longer be torn apart by deportation if they cannot afford a lawyer. Through CUNY Citizenship Now! individuals will also be able to receive free legal services at additional locations like the offices of City Council Members and various community events. These services will ensure all qualified New Yorkers have the ability to apply for U.S. citizenship and other immigrant benefits.

Joining the cities of Los Angeles, New Haven, and more, the City Council voted to institute the country’s largest municipal identification card program, available to all, including the most vulnerable populations. Municipal ID programs from around the country play a positive role, consistently empowering and protecting communities. Furthermore, the program acts as a catalyst for the economy, creating a path to increased spending and entrepreneurship as undocumented immigrants will potentially have the opportunity to open bank accounts, sign leases, and more.

IDs facilitate everyday features of life which many people take for granted, such as driving to work, opening a bank account, or returning an item in a retail store. Merely proving your existence is contingent upon holding a government recognized ID, and yet many individuals in New York City are unable to obtain proper identification – until now.

The new municipal ID program will help entire populations in New York City access a variety of services and opportunities. As Council Speaker Mark-Viverito states, “This landmark legislation will go a long way towards helping New Yorkers access City services while also giving identification to those who have not had one before.” In providing official and accurate identification for all New Yorkers, the ID program will include typical features such as a picture and address, though the most inclusive feature being the option of card holders to choose their own gender.

The program is not just an investment in immigrant services but an investment in services for all New Yorkers. Among those unable to get an ID are: the homeless, runaway youth, and elderly individuals who do not have access to necessary documents like passports, birth certificates, and social security cards necessary to obtain a New York ID; those who have been the victims of a disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, and have lost documents due to fire or flooding; and undocumented workers and their children who contribute to New York’s economy.

Spearheaded by Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Daniel Dromm with the support of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayo Bill de Blasio, the new system administered by the Mayor’s Office of Operations will empower communities who are often invisible to privileged New Yorkers. New Yorkers will have the opportunity to apply for the card at government agencies as well as a myriad of community-based organizations that provide social services. With so many options and access to apply, New Yorkers everywhere will be able to obtain IDs with convenience, while reducing wait times. The program is expected to roll out in the beginning of 2015. For further information, listen to our interview with Council Member Carlos Menchaca and LSA Family Health Services from our podcast, “Human Services News and Views,” found here!

Contributed by Eve Stern of the Human Services Council.

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Financing the Nonprofit Sector: Meeting with Director of the Office of Management and Budget

The change in administration in NYC has presented a unique opportunity for the nonprofit sector specifically to establish ourselves as a vital part of accomplishing Mayor De Blasio’s goals of reducing inequality in the city. Since the new administration took office in January, HSC has been working to establish relationships with important officials and position the sector as an important partner to the City. These relationships will allow us to progress in empowering our members and the nonprofit sector as a whole to better provide services to New Yorkers.

The New York City budget has a huge impact on many nonprofit organizations, as most receive at least some funding from City contracts. HSC and our Board were able to meet with the Office of Management and Budget Director, Dean Fuleihan along with Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, on June 10, 2014. We were afforded the opportunity to express concerns and discuss issues in terms of finances and budgeting.

To begin, Kristin Giantris of the Nonprofit Finance Fund presented recent findings from the 2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey, which detailed the problems that nonprofits are facing both in New York and around the country. The findings were significant, and proved the need for changes in how governments as well as the public view nonprofit organizations.  Over 80 percent of New York health and human services organizations reported that demand for services increased in 2013, however 57 percent were unable to meet demand. A big problem facing nonprofits is financial sustainability, with 42 percent of New York nonprofits reporting long term financial sustainability as their biggest concern. [1]

As most nonprofits are funded at least partially by government contracts, those contracts have a big impact on the financial situation of the organizations. Only 25 percent of New York health and human service organizations receive State contract payments on time, and even less receive local contract payments on time. To manage these delays, nonprofits rely on some type of debt, use reserves or are forced to delay payment to vendors or creditors. Over 50 percent of nonprofits utilizing a loan or line of credit are doing so to manage delays in payment from government contracts. Additionally, 31 percent of respondents reported spending over 300 hours per month managing government grants or contracts.[2] The time and energy spent managing the contracts, as well as the frequent delays in funding, impact an organizations’ ability to run its’ business effectively and serve clients successfully.

This report demonstrated the need for change, and set the stage for other members to discuss problems and potential solutions. The need for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was emphasized, as many organizations struggle with employee retention. The nonprofit sector in New York have not received a COLA in six years, which puts the sector at a severe disadvantage in competing for the talented individuals who could be running many of these vital programs in NYC.

Members also noted that many government contracts do not cover the full cost of the services contracted for. Many contract awards have remained constant for years, even as the cost of doing business rises. For example, if a higher minimum wage is enforced, without taking into account the fact that most nonprofits have consistent revenues, nonprofits have to find the money in their already strained budget in order to comply. These financial constraints impact an organizations ability to deliver the outcomes it desires, and negatively affect those served by the organization.

Director Fuleihan and Deputy Mayor Barrios-Paoli were receptive to the ideas presented throughout the meeting. Both were focused on realistic and actionable solutions, and members were appreciative of their acknowledgement and feedback. With a new, change-oriented administration, meetings such as this one can go a long way in making officials aware of the issues nonprofit organizations face, establishing the sector as an important partner of the government, and creating action plans to drive positive change.


Contributed by Kristin Kelsch of the Human Services Council.


[1] Nonprofit Finance Fund 2014 State of the Sector Survey,

[2] Nonprofit Finance Fund 2014 State of the Sector Survey,

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Close to Home: The Importance of Supportive Housing to the Human Services Sector

Supportive housing is the label applied to more than 30,000 New York City residences that come with live-in professionals providing support services to their tenants. These residences are operated by nonprofits, and the services they provide include employment services, individual and family therapy, and treatment for the mentally ill, to name a few. The primary goal of supportive housing is to house the chronically homeless, however, supportive housing programs have positive impacts on a variety of populations, the effects of which reverberate back to the nonprofits that serve them.

People who lose their homes are exposed to a horde of other challenges. For example, let’s assume that people who lose their homes spend more time outdoors, exposed to the elements. Exposure to rain and cold make it more likely that people will get sick, increasing their need for emergency or nonprofit medical care. Sickness, as well as the logistical inconveniences of not having a home (no shower access, no place to keep and maintain clothing), can make it impossible to hold down a job, which increases the need for employment services. Without a job and steady income, paying for food can be a struggle, leading to more people using soup kitchens and food pantries. In desperation, some people may turn to crime, like shoplifting or drug dealing. This group runs the risk of arrest or addiction, two conditions that reinforce unemployment, sickness, and homelessness, and introduce a need for legal assistance and substance abuse treatment. At any point in this chain, people may lose or give up their children, increasing the need for child care and foster care services. To review, the chronically homeless can be chronic users of child care, foster care, medical care, substance abuse treatment, employment services, food pantries, soup kitchens, and legal assistance, in addition to basic shelter services.

The chronic nature of the homeless’ use of these services deserves special emphasis because it is contrary to the goals of the nonprofit sector. Unlike every other sector of the economy, many organizations in the nonprofit sector work to put themselves out of business. Their services are designed not only to satisfy their clients’ needs, but to eliminate them altogether (e.g. substance abuse treatment). Only in this unique market is a return customer (i.e. chronic user) a bad thing. A chronic user defeats the purpose of these services and pinballs from service to service without addressing the root cause of the person’s need for assistance.

For many chronic users of these support services, homelessness is the root cause of their need. Homelessness acts as an anchor, holding them in place, whether that place is unemployment, imprisonment, sickness, or addiction. Nonprofits whose purpose is to fix an issue rather than treat it would be better served using resources on other clients whose issues they can fully address. By offering the chronically homeless a stable, safe living environment, we can kill the chronic nature of their use of other services, positively affecting the work of every nonprofit involved. Supportive housing is also an extremely good investment, as it addresses the chronic nature of homelessness while saving millions of dollars each year. For every person that leaves the streets to live in supportive housing, the City saves an average of $10,100 per person, per year.[1] For every psychiatric patient that moves into supportive housing from a state-run psychiatric facility, the City saves $77,425 per patient, per year.[2]

Contrary to the character of the preceding text, homelessness is not a hypothetical problem. Some of our neighbors suffer its effects every day. Collected here are stories of several New Yorkers’ battles with homelessness that include how their lives improved after they became tenants in supportive housing.


–          Alberto committed a robbery as a teen and spent five years in prison. Four days after he was released, he committed another crime so he could go back to prison, rather than being on the street. For the next 14 years, Alberto’s life would be dominated by homelessness and addiction. He was arrested at least 60 times, making frequent stops at Riker’s Island. In 2008, Alberto sobered up and began living in supportive housing run by the nonprofit Palladia. Since then, Alberto has trained in building maintenance and boiler repair, remained drug-free, and lived a healthy, safe life with Palladia.[3]


–          Jacqueline spent ten years with her son, Mark, shuttling between prisons, court hearings, interventions, and shelters as she struggled with drug addiction. In 2003, Jacqueline persuaded a judge to let her go into inpatient rehab and supportive housing rather than prison. Her supportive housing program, Sojourner House at Pathstone, helped Jacqueline move past her addiction. Her son Mark flourished, winning one scholarship to a prestigious all-boys high school, and then another to St. Lawrence University.[4]


–          As a young man, Jamie was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His mother, a New Yorker who emigrated from Barbados, was overwhelmed and felt unable to care for him. Jaime then became homeless, splitting time between shelters, hospitals, and the streets. In 2004, Jaime moved into the Institute for Community Living’s Myrtle and Lewis Residence. With help from the staff, he enrolled in support groups and rehabilitation training. He picked up a job, saved enough to move into his own apartment, and enrolled part-time at a local college.[5]


Supportive housing programs do good work for the people and nonprofits of New York. They help individuals with seemingly intractable problems achieve a higher quality of life. Their services address the root cause behind the needs of chronic service users in many different areas. Supportive housing programs strengthen the entire nonprofit sector by resolving the problems of chronic service users.


To learn more, Ted Houghton, executive director of Supportive Housing Network of New York, was on our radio show Human Services News and Views on June 19th, WVOX 1460 AM. You can listen online here: 


Contributed by Zack Manley of the Human Services Council.



[1] City Government Evaluation of the NY/NY III Supportive Housing, p. 2

[2] Ibid.

[3] Supportive Housing Network, Tenant Profiles,

[4] Ibid,

[5] Ibid,

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