Yesterday, Veronica Wong, Advocacy Director at University Settlement, submitted testimony to the Committee on Contracts preliminary budget hearing, (held Jointly with the Committee on Finance and the Subcommittee on Capital Budget. Here’s what she had to say:
Good afternoon, thank you for the time to speak. My name is Veronica Wong, and I’m the Advocacy Director for University Settlement.
University Settlement echoes other human services organizations and non-profits to call on the city to fully honor the Indirect Cost Rate Funding Initiative for FY20, FY21, and going forward.
University Settlement is currently working out our budget for next year, and without this funding, we could be forced to make significant reductions in our programming. We risk losing $875,000 which is the equivalent of nearly 240,000 meals for older people or providing 875 tenants with rent arrears.
Every year, we serve over 40,000 New Yorkers with programming that ranges from early childhood education to exercise classes for our elders. For the last year, our older people programming has moved virtual, and we hear over and over from our older neighbors that they are eager to return to in-person programs, to be able to meet with friends, and to be able to be back enjoying a city that they love so much. We run afterschool and summer programs, which our children will need to help them recover from this necessary but difficult year of separation from friends and in-person school. We also offer housing counseling and eviction prevention programming, and as we draw closer to the end of the statewide eviction moratorium, we anticipate an increase of neighbors needing housing support.
In short, this is a time when the city will rely on non-profits even more. Non-profits like University Settlement act as bulwarks in times of economic uncertainty and catalysts to spur economic recovery. In times of crisis, we connect our neighbors to information and resources, essential goods like food and medicine; we help neighbors access immediate rental assistance. To support economic growth and mobility, we provide education classes like adult literacy and jobs for the community. And just as importantly, after a year of loss and isolation, we have been the ones to help as our neighbors–young and old–navigate their grief and fear.
Fulfilling its indirect rate commitment is the bare minimum of what the city should do to support non-profits. As professional organizations that millions of New Yorkers rely on, non-profits need to be able to plan for our programming and budget. We are asking the city to honor a commitment for reimbursement that it made so that we, along with so many other community-based organizations, can focus on providing the services that we know our neighbors will need, the services that will hasten New York City’s economic and emotional recovery. We are asking the city not to devalue the care that we give.
Looking forward, we also ask that any future RFPs respect the labor, expertise, and dedication of non-profits by including a reimbursement rate that more accurately reflects the costs of running community programming.
Underfunding human services contracts come at a direct cost for communities most impacted by COVID-19 due to income inequality, structural racism, ageism, and ableism. It hampers our ability to bridge any gaps of care or education that have been exacerbated by this crisis. It will lead to a more unequal NYC at moment where we can choose to remake the city into one where all, no matter the income made or assets possessed, can thrive.
Thank you for your time and for your continued support for non-profits and human service organizations.