Push for Fair Wages, On-time Govt Payments for Non-Profit Human Serivce Agencies

Jan 25, 2017

CNY non-profits covering a range of issues and services came together to call for more support and better policies to help them perform their functions.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

A coalition of more than 40 agencies is banding together to try and strengthen human services and get more investment in New Yorkers’ wellbeing.  The “Restore Opportunity Now” campaign is pointing out weaknesses in health, housing, employment and education services due to state policies. 
How about fair wages for counselors and educators in community non-profits – or state contracts for all kinds of essential service paid on time.  Those are two things the new coalition is demanding.  ARISE C-E-O Tanya Anderson explains haw cutting corners on funding impacts a jobs program for people with disabilities.

“We connect with employers, build job skills and support individuals in the workplace with job coaches.  One of the ironies of the current marketplace is that our employment staff often earns a lower hourly wage than the individuals they are placing because state rates do not allow us to pay  a competitive wage.”

That makes it hard to hire and keep good people.  Over at C-N-Y Fair Housing, Executive Director Sally Santangelo covers eight counties with a staff of six.

“We work to try to find safe housing for families in our cities.  We work with seniors in small towns that are being harassed by property staff.  We work with children with disabilities in mobile home parks that are being denied accommodations that would improve their lives, and in some cases even save their lives.  I think we all know we are facing changing time in our country with regard to support for essential services we provide, which is why we need New York State to act now.”

Slow payment on state contracts also delay such programs and hurts services.  The group has three goals: fully fund services contracted by the state; have salaries and benefits become competitive; and increase overall human services funding…especially for ideas that come from community needs assessments. 

RESOURCES OFTEN FALL SHORT

  • 58 % OF ORGANIZATIONS SAY THE ARE NOT MEETING NEED OF COMMUNITY
  • 93 % SAY STATE CONTRACTS DON'T COVER FULL COST OF SERVICES
  • COMPENSATION LEVELS SET BY GOVERNMENT HURT RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

More than 40 local groups signed onto the Restore Opportunity Now coalition and lobbying effort. Hundreds of groups statewide are joining in.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

The coalition knows more from the state budget would have to come from somewhere else…education or health spending or economic development.  But Santangelo argues human services spending is a good investment.

“When you’re talking about building and strengthening communities, that is economic development.  It’s a different way of looking at economic development than perhaps we have currently.  We employ thousands of people and we’re helping make people employable.”

The coalition has the ear of assembly member Pam Hunter…the former Syracuse Common Councilor used to work in the non-profit sector…and knows the current budget proposal doesn’t offer much help.

“And I know most of you who look through it and are looking for education support, library support, indigent legal services support, looking for support for housing and for people who need emergency services, …where’s that money?”

NUMEROUS GROUPS TOOK PART IN WEDNESDAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT

AccessCNY, ACR Health, ARISE, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Catholic Charities, Center for Community Alternatives, Child Care Solutions, Children’s Consortium, Circare, Contact Community Services, CNY Fair Housing , Dunbar Association, Exodus3 Ministries, Food Bank of Central New York, Hillside Family of Agencies, Home Headquarters, Huntington Family Centers, Interfaith Works, It’s About Childhood and Family, Learning Disabilities Association of CNY, Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County, Literacy CNY, Meals on Wheels of Syracuse, Mercy Works, Onondaga Community Living, OnPoint for College, Partners in Learning, Peace, Inc., Planned Parenthood of Central & Western New York, Prevention Network, Rescue Mission Alliance, Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE), Salvation Army, Spanish Action League, Syracuse Community Connections, Syracuse Northeast Community Center, Vera House, Visions for Change, Westcott Community Center and YWCA of Syracuse and Onondaga County. (provided by organizers)

Restore Opportunity Now spans the state, reportedly involving more than 340 not-for-profits.  They’re planning a lobbying day for more investment in human services Next Tuesday.  In the meantime the agencies are being asked to call state lawmakers – and have their clients call – to try and raise the importance of human services spending to help hundreds of non-profits  help New Yorkers.