New York City Social Service Providers Facing Cutbacks

New York City Social Service Providers Facing Cutbacks

Across New York City, nonprofits that provide social services to city residents are reeling as they try to meet rising demand for their services even as their ability to provide those services is compromised by falling revenues, the New York Times reports.

According to a survey conducted by Baruch College and the Human Services Council, more than half the nonprofit social service providers in the city experienced a reduction in government funding in their most recent fiscal year, while 80 percent saw a decline in private donations and 73 percent either had no reserves or lines of credit or had exhausted them. Facing declines in government, foundation, and individual support, many agencies have had to trim or delay programs and cut staff — contributing to the very problems they were created to address.

Indeed, the combination of lower revenues and higher demand for services is straining the city's safety net in ways that have immediate consequences for those living at the margins. For instance, at the Henry Street Settlement, which delivers meals to shut-ins and provides shelter and other services to the homeless, donations fell 25 percent last year, even as the organization's endowment lost 24 percent of its value. According to Henry Street executive director Verona Middleton-Jeter, the organization has weathered the cuts mainly through layoffs and restructuring, but she does not know how long it can continue to operate without reducing services.

To help organizations like Henry Street cope, the New York Community Trust distributed more than $7 million in February to struggling social service providers and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg recently expanded an effort announced earlier this year to boost loan programs, reduce costs, and speed payments to social service providers in the city. It is help that many of the city's safety-net providers are likely to need.

"Over the years we've had situations where government might be cutting but I could make it up elsewhere," Middleton-Jeter told the Times. "This crisis has hit every resource. There's no place to run to — it's not like you could run down to the basement, because the basement is leaking and the storm is raging there."

Diane Cardwell. "With Donations and Grants Down, Social Service Agencies Feel the Pinch." New York Times 08/21/2009.