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Politico: Nonprofit coalition wants more money from Albany for human services sector

By Dan Goldberg, 2/3/17

A pair of legislators and several nonprofit CEOs gathered on the west side of Manhattan on Thursday to call for greater funding for social services.

“We are operating at a level that doesn’t allow us to provide the type of services that, frankly, we all expect in a civilized society,” said state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan.The advocates have long argued that government contracts do not meet the cost of providing services such as food for the hungry and care for the elderly. They have also repeatedly said that social services are on the brink of collapse because they are so underfunded.

The latest coalition, named “Restore Opportunity Now,” is made up of 350 organizations.

They’d like the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide an additional $12 million in the budget to help the nonprofits pay for the increase in the minimum wage. Cuomo’s executive budget allocated $200 million to help providers pay for a minimum wage increase, although that money appears to be dedicated to Medicaid providers.

They’d also like government contracts to set aside 15 percent for indirect costs, which pay for things such as insurance, electric bills and risk assessment so that the groups can figure out which contracts are too risky to take on. There is no estimate of what that would cost the state.

Part of the problem, the sector acknowledges, is that there is often some nonprofit willing to pick up a government contract even if many in the field turn it down because they don’t believe the funding is adequate. That lowest bidder creates downward pressure on what government is willing to pay.

But it’s a short-sighted game, said Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council.

“What [the government] is doing, ultimately, is feeding that organization’s downfall,” she said.

Advocates say their pleas are more urgent this year in part because of the new administration in Washington, which they believe is looking to cut federal discretionary spending.

“There are going to be radical cuts coming down in Medicaid and human services,” said Assembly Health Committee chair Richard Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan. “These are going to make life very difficult.”