Testimony: NYC Council Finance Committee Public Hearing

New York City Council
Committee on Finance, Chair, Council Member Dromm
May 24, 2018
Executive Budget Hearing – Public Hearing

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LiveOn NY is a nonprofit membership organization representing 100 community-based organizations that serve over 300,000 older New Yorkers annually through senior centers, congregate and home‐delivered meals, affordable senior housing, elder abuse prevention services, caregiver supports, transportation, NORCs and case management.  Thank you Chair Dromm and members of the Committee for the opportunity to testify, and to Chair of the Aging Committee Margaret Chin for her leadership.

The city’s budget reflects its priorities.  For New York City to truly be the fairest big city, fairness must extend across the lifespan. The Department for the Aging (DFTA) budget accounts for less than ½ of 1% of the total city budget despite the fact that older adults are the fastest growing demographic. The proposed budget does not reflect fairness for New York’s older adults.

Our full list of priorities can be found here, and key areas are highlighted below.

Expedite “Model Senior Center Budget” Funding as Soon as Possible and Fully Fund Senior Center Contracts

$10 million was baselined in FY18 for “model senior center” budgets.  As of today, that funding is not yet registered into all contracts.  We do acknowledge that DFTA fiscal staff has been working very hard to process this funding. There a June 11 Aging Committee hearing on model budgets and we will discuss “model senior center budgets” in more detail at that time, but want to highlight a few key areas.

It is our understanding that:

  • 249 senior centers were included the “model senior center budget” analysis.
  • 26 of those 249 received no funding because they were deemed at or above the “model” amount.
  • 38 additional programs were not evaluated in the “model senior center” budget process, and thus received no funding.  Among those 34 were centers are former discretionary funded sites (11 centers), former NYCHA (4 centers), social clubs (17) and other social service programs (6).
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Aside from the fact that some center received no funding, the small amount that was distributed among 223 centers can be used only in two areas: direct staffing and consultants.Direct staffing” does not include food or meal staff, which has caused more salary disparity among programs.  This also means that the entire DFTA portfolio of senior centers received no funding for meals/meal preparation, meal staff, rent, transportation, OTPS, technology, facility costs or other costs that are required to run a senior center.

In addition to the FY18 baselined $10 million, the city promised an additional $10 million “by 2021.” That money should be allocated immediately in FY19.  Senior centers have been grossly underfunded for decades and the city must fully fund nonprofits to cover the costs of the contracted services to meet current demand. Allocating these funds is extremely important with the projected next RFP for senior centers to be released in calendar year 2020.   Further, while this initial funding is an important first step, the city must make a serious commitment going forward to add funds reflecting the full scope of what it takes to run a robust senior center today and in the future.

Add $12.1 Million in Baselined New Funding for Congregate and Home Delivered Meals

Thank you to the Council for including a funding request to address senior hunger in the Council Response to the Executive Budget. Meals also offer socialization and improve lives, as isolation has been found to be a greater predictor of morbidity than obesity and provide critical nutrition services for seniors of all backgrounds, language capacities, religions, and socioeconomic status. Lunch at a center or a home delivered meal is truly more than a meal. 

This $12.1 million in new funding request is incredibly important because as noted, the city failed to include  funding for meals, meal preparation or meal staff in the “model senior center budgets” nor in its FY19 Executive Budget, despite the fact that meals are a core component of senior centers.

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If the city wants to address senior hunger, the logical, not to mention incredible, resource is the network of senior service agencies that already exists through senior centers and home delivered meals providers. Senior centers provided 7.6 million senior center meals last year and more than half of seniors report that meals eaten at the center equate to 50% or more of their daily food intake and nutrients for the day from these meals. This year, providers will distribute 4.5 million home delivered meals. The majority of seniors utilizing the program tend to be women, living alone, receiving meals that on average account for ½ or more of their total food for the day.

However, the city must fully fund the nonprofits it contracts with who are providing these crucial services.  Nonprofits should not be routinely operating at a loss to provide for the current need.  New York City spends 20% below the national average on senior meals – that means they are only paying for 4 out of every 5 needed meals.

Further, almost 50% of older New Yorkers are foreign born, reflecting a significant need for meals that are culturally appropriate to an array of background, according to a recent Center for an Urban Future study. Providers are required, not to mention eager, to offer menus that culturally appropriate and nutritious. This requirement brings a fiscal implication: for example, in 2015, DFTA stated that, “in DFTA’s HDML network, each catered Kosher [meal] is on average $1.38 more than non-Kosher catered meals.” Similar to Kosher meals, Halaal, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, or other cultural or nutritional needs have an associated cost-increase. 

We urge the Administration address this vital shortfall and to help address senior hunger adding $12.1 million in new funding be baselined to increase the reimbursement rate for congregate and home-delivered meals.

Council Restorations and Investments in Senior Services Through Schedule C

City Council has long been a staunch supporter of systemic city and district wide senior services programs through allocations in Schedule C.  In fact, the Council added $31.6 million to DFTA’s budget in FY18, which is more than 9% of DFTA’s total budget for the current fiscal year.  We thank you for your investments and advocate for full restoration for all Senior Service Programs funded in Schedule C.  These include NORCs, Support our Seniors, SuCasa, Senior Centers for Immigrant Populations, Health Aging Initiative, Social Adult Day, and others.  Council funding is critical to sustain the existence of these programs.

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For example, in FY18, Sunnyside Community Services' Senior Center was partnered with Dance Entropy through the SU-CASA program.  Through this partnership, they provided a dance movement class to 20 seniors for 15 weeks where seniors learned about modern dance and dance history as well as had the opportunity to attend performances at Green Space that would not have otherwise been possible.  These older adults have enjoyed each other's company and are looking forward to the grand finale performance in June.  Overall, this experience enhances physical and social well-being.  Elimination of this funding would be detrimental to this program, as well as the over 200 SuCasa programs like this throughout the city and just one of the many Council supports through systemic Schedule C funding.

Continued Investments in Human Services Sector

Finally, LiveOn NY strongly supports the agency-wide investments in FY19 in the human services sector.  Last year saw an important investment in human services provider organizations that hold City contracts. With your help, we secured $300m of our $500m ask to help nonprofit provider organizations cover the cost of delivering essential services to New Yorkers. 

In the upcoming year, there are several areas of human service nonprofit operations that need special attention:

  • Include trend factor/cost escalation formulas in all new procurements for the duration of the contract;
  • Provide $200 million in additional baseline funding to:
    • Address implementation of the following allowable rates on all HHS contracts and all new procurements
    • 15% for indirect costs
    • 37% for fringe benefits
  • Fund key operating expense increases in all HHS contracts and new procurements by the following rates:
    • 10% increase to occupancy costs
    • 10% increase to casualty and liability insurance

LiveOn NY looks forward to working with City Council, the Department for the Aging, all city agencies and the Administration to make New York a better place to age through a strong network of community based services.