There was a lot of interest generated from yesterday’s press conference regarding the human services sector advocacy for a 3 percent increase in funding yearly for the next five years, the so called -3For-5 Campaign. As we said at the press conference, it is unprecedented for the entire human services sector to speak with one strong voice in support of this funding. Whether you work in mental health, developmental disabilities, addiction disorders, child welfare, domestic violence, foster care, homeless programs, aging programs and all the other community safety net providers, we are all universally advocating for the same thing -3For-5
Organizations face declining services, increased waitlists and stagnant salaries without the support, advocates say.
As New York City and private funders have been taking steps to better fund overhead costs for nonprofits, human services providers working with the state are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to boost their funding by 3% each year for the next five years.
Human services organizations have spent years pushing for the state to boost its financial support, particularly for their workforce. The state budget has not included cost-of-living adjustments for their organizations for the past decade, advocates said, which means their state funding has not kept pace with rising costs in health care and other expenses. The result: declining services and increased use of waiting lists.
“I have a young person in a foster care group home who just got a job as an assistant shift supervisor at the local Starbucks,” Bill Gettman, CEO of Northern Rivers Family of Services, told NYN Media. “He makes $16.85 an hour, not bad. … The staff who drives him to work and picks him up make $13 an hour.”
Gettman’s nonprofit has already cut back on the number of beds in its foster care program, has closed group homes and is set to close its Supervised Independent Living Program – which helps youth transition out of foster care – this month.
The state, meanwhile, is pushing back, arguing that it has already increased funding for human services providers.
“New York state has made substantial investments in our direct care workforce, funding $355 million to support more than 9% in salary increases since 2015 including a 2% increase slated for January and another 2% in April,” Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, said in a statement. “These workers are the backbone of a strong service delivery system, and these investments are not only increasing salaries, but improving services by bolstering recruitment.”
But advocates have derided these efforts as incomplete, as the salary boosts usually only apply to specific parts of the human services workforce. The 2% increases, for example, only apply to direct support professionals, direct care workers and clinical staff employed by the state Office of Mental Health, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
“There’s little pockets of things that the governor and Legislature have funded, but the sector overall and big swaths of the groups I represent – like homeless services and senior services and a lot of preventive services and foster care – they have not really seen an increase,” said Michelle Jackson, deputy executive director of the Human Services Council.
But taking what already is not a “sexy issue” for government officials, as Jackson described it, and making it a priority may be even more difficult this year, given that New York is facing a $6 billion budget gap. The campaign does have at least one legislative supporter, though: state Sen. David Carlucci. Time will tell whether others will follow his lead.