Momentum continues around the issue of COLA for the Human Service Sector. Here is a powerful letter from Bill Gettman, CEO of Northern Rivers and MHANYS Board Vice-Chair in today’s Schenectady Gazette urging support for additional funding. Last night, I was on Capitol Tonight with Liz Benjamin talking about the COLA and our partners in Behavioral Health and Strong Non Profits continue efforts to raise the visibility of this issue. Look for additional actions in the next few days as we could possibly come close to passage of the budget
Letters to the Editor for Friday, March 22
Raise cost of living pay for services staff
The New York state budget expires on March 31. The Legislature and governor are now negotiating the “big” issues, including the property tax cap, recreational marijuana, election- and criminal justice reform, and more.
As the leaders discuss spending, it is important not to lose track of the human services staffing crisis.
Over the past 18 months, our ability to attract and retain quality employees for our services has declined precipitously.
Staff turnover ranging from 35 percent to 40 percent annually has gotten materially worse. These trends are jeopardizing the quality and extent of the services we provide the entire county and local communities.
Underfunding human services is also an equity and racial disparity issue. The nonprofit human services workforce is 81 percent female and 46 percent women of color.
Today, over 400 Northern Rivers Family Services staff work in Schenectady County, providing educational, early Head Start, family services, counseling, foster care and mental health services to over 4,000 families, children and youth. We depend on trained staff to support our clients. We can’t replace staff with technology, nor can we raise our prices.
On behalf of the human services sector and our clients, we urge the elected officials to include the statutory-required cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all human services workers in the state budget. Our children, adults and communities depend on these staff.
The writer is CEO of Northern Rivers Family of Services.