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Nonprofit leaders appeal for more state funding

Officials with social service agencies that help the disabled and senior citizens say they need more than $265 million in this year's state budget to pay employees and upgrade infrastructure.

Keith Little, executive director of SCO Family of

Keith Little, executive director of SCO Family of Services, joined Friday with leaders of nonprofit organizations and lawmakers at Westbrook Preparatory School in Westbury, calling for an infusion of state funds to help pay social service agencies' employees and make infrastructure improvements. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

Leaders of local nonprofits called Friday for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include more than $265 million in the state budget to fund better wages for social services workers and infrastructure improvements, saying high employee turnover and dilapidated facilities hinder the ability to help New York's most vulnerable populations.

"In terms of the individuals we serve, they won't get the quality of care that they require," said Keith Little, executive director of SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit based in Glen Cove that serves 60,000 people annually on Long Island and in New York City.

"A recurring investment in nonprofit infrastructure is crucial for the continued success of our programs and the individuals we serve," he said. "Sadly, New York State’s human services workforce as a whole has not had a cost-of-living adjustment in nine years.”

Little, with local legislators and other nonprofit leaders, spoke at a news conference at Westbrook Preparatory School in Westbury, a residential junior/senior high school for students with Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism and related conditions. SCO Family of Services partnered with parents and residents to found the school, which opened in 2011.

Friday's event was one of several held across the state "as a way to recognize the importance of the role that nonprofit agencies play in a life," Little said. The effort is supported by Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York, a statewide coalition of more than 350 nonprofit human services providers.

Organizers said the nonprofit sector faces enormous financial difficulties. Government agencies hire nonprofits to provide essential services to people with disabilities and senior citizens, but rarely cover the full costs of the programming, leading to funding gaps that are not easily filled, they said.

Advocates are asking for $140 million to address delayed cost-of-living adjustments for social services workers and a $100 million investment to improve nonprofit infrastructure. In addition, they are seeking $25 million to pay for the increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour for those employees. State contracts, under which many nonprofits operate, have not been adjusted to reflect the increase in the minimum wage, they said.

Local legislators pledging their support included State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hempstead) and Assembs. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head), Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Edward P. Ra (R-Franklin Square).

Many of the social services programs are in older facilities that need improvements, such as repairs and upgrades to heating and cooling systems, Little said.

Patricia Daniels, program director at Westbrook, said the school would like to expand but needs funding to do so.

"We can't in this specific site because it is so cramped," she said. The school, with 18 residential students and four in a day program, can serve a maximum of 24 students, she said.

Guy Vincel's son, Luke, is in the 11th grade at Westbrook. He credited the school with a transformation in his son's life, noting that Luke has passed Regents exams, participates in school activities and joined the school choir.

"It's a miracle," Vincel said. "He is saved."

Statewide, nonprofit organizations serve 2.5 million people through after-school programs, supportive housing, job training, mental health services and other outreach efforts, officials said.

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