More ways to fix the city’s nonprofit contracting system
The new city administration’s efforts to fix the nonprofit contracting system and avoid costly delays is an essential step strengthening the city’s enormous, and essential, human services sector. But it’s just a first step.
New York’s nonprofit sector employs 662,000 people, the majority of whom are women and people of color. In order to truly address the issues of equity among human services organizations, the administration must confront the issue of pay through city contracts. Although the timeliness of contract reimbursement is critically important to nonprofits’ bottom lines, the larger systemic issues are that contract rates do not cover the full cost of direct program expenses and that salary floors are set very low. The responsibility lies with the city for the fact that nonprofit workers have higher rates of using SNAP than private-sector workers, and nonprofit employees with degrees generally make $20,000 less than comparable public-sector workers.
The essential workforce that has carried our city through the Covid-19 pandemic deserves more than a system that perpetuates pay disparities. At Encore Community Services, our team members showed up every day to cook and deliver nutritious meals to homebound senior citizens, and they provided a wide array of social services, which undoubtedly saved many lives. Yet some of their city-contracted wages make food insecurity a personal issue. It can be interpreted as government-sanctioned poverty.
That’s why human services providers including Encore are calling on the new administration to take action and fix the exploitative dynamic that has gone on too long. We believe the city should establish and fund an automatic annual cost-of-living adjustment on all human services contracts, set a wage floor of no less than $21 per hour for all city-contracted human services workers, and create a comprehensive wage and benefit schedule.
The administration’s willingness to right some of the wrongs with the city’s nonprofit contracting process is an encouraging sign. Our essential workforce is watching and waiting to see if city leaders will come through to improve their economic well-being and truly improve equity in our community.
Executive Director, Encore Community Services