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 http://www.humanservicescouncil.org/documents/Human%20Services%20Council%20Leads%20COLA%20Campaign.pdf

[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



About Human Services Council

The Human Services Council strengthens New York's nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential.
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