To our staff, Board of Directors, and stakeholders, we would first like to express our gratitude for your enduring effort and commitment to the betterment of Bronx communities. This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of BronxWorks, looking back on all of the aspects of our work, including the labor and the direct service, the community organizing, the striving for change and progress, the growth, the impact, and the consistent and unyielding dedication to our neighbors. Our efforts have been ceaseless even in the face of global calamity, rising to meet the tide of challenges, most recently but not of course limited to the COVID-19 pandemic, the influx of asylum-seeking migrant families, the ongoing homelessness crisis, and persistent economic hardships.
It is in the context of 50 years of our work and effort, in the streets of our City and on the frontlines of community change, that we turn our pride to disappointment in the New York City Council and Mayor Eric Adams’ FY24 Budget and its lack of necessary funding to support adequate cost of living adjustments (COLA) for nonprofit human service workers. While City government depends on our services to implement high-quality community-based programming for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, City contracts continue to pay depressed wages to nonprofit human service workers, resulting in high staff turnover & long-term vacancies and, in the face of high levels of inflation, condemning human service workers to poverty level wages.
This past year, BronxWorks united with our partner and colleague organizations throughout the City, the United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), and the Human Services Council (HSC) on the #JustPay Campaign. The Campaign saw multiple rallies organized; countless phone calls, emails, and letters sent to elected government at all levels; and over 6,000 human service workers pausing programs to demonstrate the impact of losing these important roles and jobs across the sector.
Despite our collective efforts, our City’s leaders have deemed our work to be not worthy of significant investment or support. Together, we asked for $200 million to support a 6.5% COLA for our City’s nonprofit human service workers. What they gave us instead was a $40 million “workforce enhancement” fund to be split by over 125,000 workers across the sector. This fund falls entirely short of the support needed for human service wages to keep up with the high inflationary pressures that continue to affect our economy.
This “workforce enhancement” fund does not represent sustainable investment in the City’s nonprofit human services sector that our government has come to rely on in times of crucial need. When tens of thousands of migrant families were arriving in New York City, BronxWorks was one of several community organizations that City leaders turned to for help, and BronxWorks took in hundreds of migrant families and provided supportive services to countless more. When tragedy struck in the form of major fires in the Bronx, BronxWorks was one of the community organizations that stepped up to provide support to the affected families. And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, BronxWorks provided the critical services needed for our communities to endure the acute hardships for three years. We continue to help communities recover from long-term effects. This FY24 Budget devalues the immediacy and importance of our work, and as City leaders ask organizations like BronxWorks to do more, we urge them to do the right thing by ensuring that our human services workers receive just pay.