A new legislative session and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new term have meant lots of talk and plenty of bills before the City Council, but a core demand of human services nonprofits has largely gone unacknowledged by elected officials in recent weeks.
De Blasio’s Feb. 13 State of the City address centered on creating “the fairest city in America,” but leaders of human services nonprofits say they are still waiting on the city to resolve outstanding issues surrounding city contracts and unfunded program costs. Bills carried over from the last City Council session include many proposals likely to receive attention from the nonprofit sector, but none of them address this core issue, according to an NYN Media review of 600 bills before the council.
The city needs to better partner with the organizations that put many of its policies into action, according to Sharon Stapel, executive director of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York.
“Where the City is contracting with nonprofits to provide services, the City must pay the full cost of that program, including the direct cost of providing the program and the indirect costs necessary to sustain the program and the organization running it,” she said in an email.
De Blasio did establish the Nonprofit Resilience Committee in 2016 to address challenges to the sector’s stability, a local manifestation of a nationwide threat to the financial stability of human services nonprofits. This initiative has had mixed progress, Politico New York reported last year.
But Jose Bayona, a de Blasio spokesman, said in an email that the city will have invested hundreds of millions of dollars more in nonprofits by 2021, including this year when $374 million was allocated to the sector. This increased financial investment accompanies greater transparency, more collaboration, and more consistency from the city in its dealings with the organizations that provide everything from homeless shelter services to helping seniors, according to Bayona.
But representatives of organizations throughout New York City say there’s still a long way to go before America’s most populous city is the fairest of them all when it comes to human services nonprofits.
Sector leaders are optimistic however that their relationship with the mayor will become stronger and stress that there is still an opportunity for de Blasio to reach out to the nonprofit sector to improve relations – based on what he and Council Speaker Corey Johnson have said before about the need to shore up support for the sector, according to Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council of New York
“Progress continues through the model budget processes and the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee efforts,” Sesso said in an email. "The mayor and the city council speaker have both been outspoken about the importance of human services nonprofits to the city and been explicit about the need to address the inadequacies of contracts. This leaves me optimistic.”
In the meantime here is a list of the bills reintroduced into the council this year that affect the sector and associated issues.
The City Council would “review city procurement relating to contractual spending by city agencies” as well as expenses by not-for-profit organizations that receive less than $100,000 from the city, under this bill. Another proposal would require that organizations that have city contracts totalling more than $250,000 report the compensation of their three highest-paid employees, which also spares the city the trouble of finding the organization’s federal 990 form from the state. City Councilman Justin Brannon, chair of the Committee on Contracts, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Three separate bills address homelessness among young adults. This one would require The Department of Youth and Community Development to report annually on the size and characteristics of runaway and homeless youth, as well as details on how to serve them – in effect beginning to shift responsibility for housing them away from the Department of Homeless Services. A second bill would increase the period of time that youth may remain in transitional living facilities to up to 24 months beyond age 21 in some circumstances. Then there is the third bill, which allows people between 21 and 24 years of age to stay in shelters provided by the Department of Youth and Community Development.
Early signs point to these bills having wide support among City Council members, according to Councilwoman Debi Rose, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Youth Services.
“While the city offers shelters, drop-in centers and specialized programming to address the needs of this vulnerable population, we also have gaps in our services,” she said in an email. “I am committed to moving these bills forward as quickly as possible to address this crisis on both a short- and long-term basis.”
Administration for Children’s Services
English classes could be in the works for foster care youth, per this proposal. ACS would have to allow juveniles in detention to request a bit of privacy during visits and phone calls, under another proposal.
There would be at least one newly-created Veterans Resource Center in each borough by June 2018 under one proposal. The department of Veterans’ Services would have to issue a biannual report on how many former service members are using the centers and which services they access there. Another bill would require the Human Resources Administration to provide rental assistance to disabled veterans who meet certain criteria. Counseling services could also be made available to veterans, under a third proposal.
A monthly report from the Department of Homeless Services would gather data on the demographics of families with children in city shelters, under one proposal. More information would be made available under another proposal mandating a daily update on the number of people in city shelters.
The city would evaluate the effectiveness of criminal justice programs that receive city funds, under this proposal, including the nature of services, number of people served and rates of recidivism. Another bill would establish May 25 as Kalief Browder Day, in honor of the now-deceased youth whose experience on Rikers Island sparked a national reckoning on the use of solitary confinement with teens.
The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice would also have to provide information on available social services to people who have been found to be wrongfully convicted of crimes, should this bill become law. An annual report from the NYPD would detail the demographics and alleged crimes of arrested youth, under this proposal. The Department of Correction would have work to do too if a proposed inmate quality of life report becomes mandated.