With about a month left in the NYS budget process, we are still fighting to make our elected officials understand the need to include the 8.5% Human Services cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). We have participated in rallies and meetings at the Capitol with our representatives, worked with advocacy groups from throughout the sector and throughout the state to raise our voices as one, held call-in and write-in campaigns, and spoken loudly and forcefully on social media to build support for our cause. We cannot and will not stop, and we continue to look for additional ways to be heard.
If you believe in this issue, let your elected officials know where you stand! Phone calls and emails make a real difference.
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Northern Rivers Family of Services CEO William T. Gettman, Jr., has issued the following response to Governor Hochul's Executive Budget proposal:
Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget proposal is a large and complex document, and we will have additional thoughts and reactions as we continue to analyze the document. But our first reaction is one of concern. The Human Services sector has spoken with one voice to advocate for an 8.5% COLA this budget season. We did not pull this number out of thin air. We’re pushing for 8.5% because that’s how much the cost of living has gone up in our society. In other words, we haven’t been asking for more—we’ve just been asking for help to not fall any further behind.
The governor’s proposed budget contains a 2.5% bump for our sector. We take this as an acknowledgement that we need and deserve more support; yet it does not reflect the reality in which our organizations live and operate. We look forward to working with the NYS Legislature as they develop their budgets, and remain hopeful that our sector will not be forgotten and remain viable.
Northern Rivers Family of Services CEO William T. Gettman, Jr., has issued the following response to Governor Hochul’s State of the State address:
Governor Hochul’s State of the State address serves as a statement of the administration’s values and priorities for the upcoming year. For those of us with boots on the ground in service to some of New York’s most vulnerable residents, it shows us the priorities of our leadership, and demonstrates the challenges we will face in the year ahead.
Our first reactions to this year’s initial legislative roadmap are as follows:
Where is child welfare? Once again, the vitally important programs that protect children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect were left unacknowledged in this statement of values. The workforce that showed up in-person every day during the darkest moments of the pandemic to provide 24/7/365 care and protection to children is every bit as valuable and important to public health as other workers lauded for their bravery and heroism; yet this entire sector continues to be separated from other human services like mental health and healthcare when it comes time for adequate funding and respect.
Who fulfills the mental health promise? An investment of $1 billion in our mental health system is an important step for all New Yorkers. But left unsaid is who’ll provide these life-changing services? Programs only work when they have a trained, experienced, stable workforce to implement and deliver them. In a sector battered by an unprecedented workforce crisis, where is the support to attract people to the field, compensate them fairly, and encourage them to stay in jobs where they make a difference?
What is the best way to fight poverty? We are heartened to see substantial investments in mental health, childcare, and housing; all initiatives that help combat the devastating effects of poverty. Committing resources to some of the foundational issues that hold many New Yorkers will have a lasting impact and help give every New Yorker the chance to fulfill their promise.
We eagerly anticipate the governor’s Executive Budget and hope to see real solutions to these challenges. Including an 8.5% Human Services COLA, funding foster care rates, and investing in prevention services would signify that this administration truly is committed to moving New York forward.
We hope you never need the Human Services safety net. We hope neither you nor anyone you care about ever struggles with addiction, with food insecurity, with mental health, or child welfare, homelessness, domestic violence, or any of the other challenges that nonprofit Human Services organizations help with every day.
But the odds are pretty good that you, just like everyone else, will need these life-changing services sooner or later. And when you do, you deserve to get the help you need from strong organizations with experienced staff and sufficient resources.
Our safety net has been stretched thin. Decades of insufficient investment, an overwhelming workforce crisis, increased demand for these services brought on by the pandemic and other societal factors—the safety net keeps filling up with more and more people, and it’s stretched to the limit.
That’s why we’re calling on our NYS elected officials, from the governor to the legislature, to provide the tools to mend our net when building this year’s budget. The best way to do that?
Include an 8.5% COLA for Human Services workers in the NYS budget
Last year, the state included a 5.4% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for some Human Services workers, fulfilling a promise made more than a dozen budgets ago that was manually removed each year. This gave a bit of relief to some programs across the sector—relief that was short-lived, with prices for everything from rent to food to gas to energy obliterating the benefits.
To put it plainly, a 5.4% COLA for a worker making $15 an hour to care for abused children works out to 80 cents an hour before taxes. And when that’s the first real adjustment in more than a decade, well, you can understand how that safety net is fraying.
What can you do? Stand up and be heard. Ask the governor to include the 8.5 % COLA in the State’s budget. Simply call the governor’s office at 518.474.8390 and state your support for the 8.5% Human Services COLA.
It takes less than five minutes, and it means the world.