City Budget Offers Recognition of Human Services Nonprofits
On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered his Fiscal Year 2016 Executive Budget. After a period of intense lobbying by some of the city’s largest human services nonprofits and coalitions, the budget contains important victories for the sector.
Notably, the budget unveiled on Thursday included a 2.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase for the human services sector – the first of its kind in six years – welcome news to a sector that has been clamoring for increases in the midst of a challenging environment.
“While we recognize that the 2.5% COLA is lower than the 5% this year and 5% next year we had hoped for, given the lack of adjustments over the last six years, rising costs and demand for services, we appreciate the recognition of our workforce in this budget and view this as an important starting point to greater investment,” said Michelle Jackson, Associate Director and General Counsel of the Human Services Council.
Another noteworthy aspect of the announced COLA increase is the way in which it is funded – through labor allocations – which advocates such as Jackson see as a signal of commitment to the social services workforce.
The mayor’s budget also included an $11.50 per hour floor wage for City-contracted social services workers, largely in response to the recent active lobbying of the Federation for Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) and the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI).
“The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) and the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) applaud the Mayor for including in his Executive Budget a first-ever $11.50 per hour wage floor for the City's contracted social service workforce,” said a joint statement provided by the two advocacy groups.
“This will mean a big earnings boost for 10,000 workers whose wages currently average less than $10.00 per hour. These frontline workers, many of whom live in poverty or near-poverty conditions, provide early childhood education, foster care, afterschool programs, senior case management, housing services, and other vital programs for vulnerable populations,” the statement continued.
Jackson also signaled support for this policy shift, but maintained that the Human Services Council will continue to press City Hall for specifics with regards to implementation.
“By including funding for this policy change, the administration seems to be breaking from the "unfunded mandate" often experienced by our sector. Of course, implementation details will matter and HSC is working to get a handle on the specifics,” Jackson said.
Another item that signaled recognition of social services was the inclusion of $5 million to develop a Career Pathways System intended to provide long-lasting advancement opportunities for workers in the sector.
“These essential investments reflect Mayor de Blasio’s profound commitment to further improve the quality of social services and make progress toward reducing poverty and income inequality,” said the FPWA and FPI joint statement.