Welcome to the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island

At the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI), our work is to ensure that our region is a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone to live. We can set the standard for what an equitable region looks like. That means safe communities, decent, affordable housing, healthy food, access to care and an opportunity to thrive. In our quest for improvements and systemic change, we face a unique set of obstacles. In fact, the poverty rate today is at its highest since 1959. Given the current assault on the country’s most vulnerable communities, our work is more important than ever.

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Recent News

January 15, 2023

Long Island nonprofits at a crossroads: Facing surging demand, fighting giving fatigue

By Olivia Winslow

Updated January 15th, 2022

Read on Newsday

As Long Island faces difficult economic headwinds spurred by inflation and other factors, nonprofit organizations say they must guard against giving fatigue as they look to finance their programs at a time of surging demand for help.

While "not every nonprofit fits into the same box," according to Theresa Regnante, president and chief executive of the United Way of Long Island, economic uncertainties call for nonprofits like hers to be "nimble" and devise a diverse fundraising strategy, drawing on an array of corporations and private donors, for instance. 

At a time of rising inflation and the accompanying uncertainty — at least one local financial manager predicted a challenging economic climate for nonprofits this year — several nonprofit executives said they are redoubling their efforts to pursue multiple funding streams.

"An organization in today's environment has to be very nimble and have relationships in a lot of different places," said Regnante. "United Way, because of how we're structured, we're not necessarily dependent on any one event or one stream [of funding]. We have an $18 million budget. That $18 million has to be raised."

Meanwhile, an expert with an organization that tracks philanthropy nationally said while donations are robust, what people give as a percentage of their income has not risen in decades. And while the amount of money going to charity grew in 2021 over 2020, when inflation is factored in, charitable giving has remained essentially flat.

In fundraising, 'looking for any advantage'

According to Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2021, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $484.85 billion to U.S. charities in 2021, a 4% increase over 2020 contributions.

"However, while giving increased in current dollars, it remained flat (-0.7%) after adjusting for inflation," the report said.

The Giving USA report added: “The story of charitable giving in 2021 is closely tied to the events of 2020, a historic year that included a pandemic, economic crisis and recovery, efforts to advance racial justice, and an unprecedented philanthropic response. In 2021, Americans continued giving more generously than before the pandemic. However, the growth in giving did not keep pace with inflation, causing challenges for many nonprofits. In 2021, many donors returned to their favored causes, with many of the sectors that struggled in 2020 making a recovery in 2021."

The Giving USA report is published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute.

Poonam Prasad, on the executive committee and board of the Giving Institute and running a fundraising research firm based in New York City, said that while the amount of charitable donations has increased over the year because of inflation, what people give as a percentage of their income hasn't budged in decades.

"We're concerned with the 2% that people have been giving — the approximate average — it hasn't changed in many years. For decades," Prasad said.

Ken Cerini, managing partner of Cerini & Associates, a Bohemia-based accounting firm, suggested the economic climate overall for nonprofits was a challenging one.

"We anticipate funding for the sector will be down for 2023, with health and welfare organizations seeing an increase in demand in 2023," he said.

Cerini added: "As a result, nonprofits are looking for any advantage they can get to help them increase their fundraising results."

Push to diversify funding sources

Several leaders of human service nonprofits on Long Island said in good financial times and bad, they're always pushing to diversify their funding sources. 

Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said in an email that in light of the challenges, "nonprofits that are overly reliant on government funding will need to build new growth models and innovate in a time in which many organizations are struggling to identify, hire and retain talent amid escalating community need."

She suggested nonprofits should "build alliances with other sectors to meet the needs of our region's families. We will need to be creative and both attract new funders to our region and help guide individuals with financial resources to invest locally and demonstrate the return on that investment." 

Regnante said there are a lot of different funding streams "that make up the pie of most nonprofits." She said some social service nonprofits, for example, can look to government contracts for the services they provide.

But United Way can't tap into government contracts. The organization's funding comes from competitive grant funding, money from foundations, donations from individuals and events conducted by the organization, which develops programming and funding for 100 "community partners" in the areas of education, health and financial support.

"All of our fundraising has got to be relationship driven," Regnante said. "We have a board of directors where we have 50 members on it. We need that prowess, if you will, and that impact from our board members affecting gifts from their employers."

A "significant" gift of $350,000 to United Way for its Project Warmth emergency heating assistance program this year came from the National Grid Foundation, Regnante said. "That's a $100,000 increase from that one entity year over year. That's a huge gift. Not too many foundations and companies are writing checks of that magnitude."

'I'm always worried'

Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive of Garden City-based Family & Children's Association,  said that "even [for] those of us who get a fair amount of government contracts, you still need private fundraising dollars because the government contracts often don't pay for the entire program."

Reynolds said his organization has a $24 million budget this year and plans to raise $2 million through donations from foundations, individuals and corporations.

"If you ask if I'm worried, I'm always worried," Reynolds said. In good economic times, he said he worries that people won't give as much because they think everyone is doing well. Conversely, he worries that in a down economy, giving will be reduced because finances are tighter.

Still, he said he didn't foresee a situation this year of a "really strong recession. I think that would be a game-changer and could result in a perfect storm: unparalleled human needs but no resources. I don't think we're walking into that."

Reynolds said attracting big money from the parts of Long Island outside of the Hamptons is difficult.

"The reality is it's never easy to raise funds on Long Island," he said. "While there's a lot of charitable people on Long Island, you don't see the kind of money you see in New York City or the Hamptons."

While two foundations on Long Island have either closed or moved off the Island — the Hagedorn Foundation and the Rauch Foundation, respectively — the Long Island Community Foundation remains and distributed nearly $9.4 million in grants last year to local nonprofits.

David Okorn, executive director of the community foundation, said the economy and inflation rates were "unsettling." 

Nevertheless, he said: "Our record of financial management is an important element of how we serve donors and nonprofits and grow the community's charitable capital. We are built for good times and bad times and endowments matter …" 

Sidney Joyner, chairman of the board of the Urban League of Long Island, said "so far we are steady and moving up, in terms of our ability to raise funds." He said he was particularly pleased the group received a $1.14 million federal grant in December for its workforce development programs.

Joyner said one obstacle in fundraising was convincing potential donors that there is great need on Long Island, which is perceived as a uniformly wealthy region. 

"They assume we're rich. We have to overcome that. There are a lot of people facing tremendous challenges."

WHAT TO KNOW Long Island nonprofit leaders are focused on guarding against giving fatigue during a time of surging demand for help.Charitable giving has remained essentially flat. What people give as a percentage of their income has not budged in decades, according to an expert.A key method for staying afloat during difficult times is to push for continually diversified funding streams, area leaders say, so they're pursuing everything from individual donations to charitable events and more.

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January 13, 2023

Hochul's 'Groundbreaking Plan' For New Homes

By Lisa Finn

Posted Friday January 13th, 2022

Read on The Patch

LONG ISLAND NY – Housing advocates are lauding Gov. Kathy Hochul, who delivered her State of the State address Tuesday from Albany with a focus on a new plan to make finding a home on Long Island more accessible to all.

However, some town officials are concerned that the state could step in if local directives for new housing are not met within the newly prescribed deadline.

The housing crisis statewide needs immediate attention, Hochul said. While over the last decade, New York has created 1.2 million jobs, only 400,000 new homes have been built. Land-use policies statewide are some of the most restrictive in the nation, she said.

"Through zoning, local communities hold enormous power to block growth of multi-family housing and make it almost impossible to build new homes," she said. "People want to live here and have jobs here but, because of local decisions, they cannot."

On Long Island, between 2010 and 2018 Suffolk and Nassau Counties permitted fewer housing permits per capita than suburban communities in other areas across the country; Seattle permitted four times as many, she said.

Last year, Hochul unveiled a $25 billion, five-year housing plan that would create and preserve 100,0000 affordable homes in both urban and rural communities throughout the state.

On Tuesday, she presented the New York Housing Compact, a "groundbreaking plan" that would lead to 800,000 new homes built over the next decade.

The intent is for each locality to have a target, with upstate expected to see housing stock grow 1 percent every three years and downstate, to see growth of 3 percent every three years.

Local governments will all have to reach a target and can do that by reinventing old malls and office parks, incentivizing new houses, or updating their zoning codes, Hochul said, adding that local government will also see help from the state via funding and by cutting through the red tape to allow projects to move more quickly.

After 3 years, in localities that do not meet growth targets or do not take steps to implement preferred actions, proposed housing developments that meet particular affordability criteria, but may not conform to existing zoning, may take advantage of a fast-track housing approval process if the locality denies the permit, Hochul said.

The appeal can be made to a new state housing approval board or through the courts, she added. Appealed projects will be approved unless a locality can demonstrate a valid health or safety reason for denying the application..

Localities that do not meet housing targets can achieve Safe Harbor status for one three-year cycle by implementing certain good faith actions — or "preferred actions" — that create zoning capacity to achieve the growth targets, Hochul said.

"Doing nothing is an abdication of our responsibility to act in times of crisis," Hochul said.With a focus on transit-oriented development, any community with an MTA train station will be required to locally rezone areas within a half mile to allow for creation of higher density residential development over the next three years, she said.

"New York faces a housing crisis that requires bold actions and an all-hands-on-deck approach," Hochul said. "Every community in New York must do their part to encourage housing growth to move our state forward and keep our economy strong. The New York Housing Compact is a comprehensive plan to spur the changes needed to create more housing, meet rising demand, and make our state a more equitable, stable, and affordable place to live."

According to the Population Reference Bureau, Hochul said, more than half of New York renters are rent-burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent — the second-highest rate in the nation. In the New York City metro area, rents have risen 30 percent since 2015 and home prices have risen 50 percent over the same period. Outside of New York City, rents have risen 40 to 60 percent since 2015 while home prices have risen 50 to 80 percent.

The New York Housing Compact will make available a $250 million infrastructure fund and a $20 million planning fund to support new housing production statewide. Municipalities may submit requests for planning funding to undertake either required transit-oriented development rezonings or preferred actions to help them hit their growth targets. The plan will also create a new housing planning office within New York State Homes and Community Renewal to provide municipalities with support and guidance, she said.

Hochul will also propose legislation to expand the universe of commercial buildings eligible for conversion to residential use and provide necessary regulatory relief, making an estimated additional 120 million square feet newly eligible for conversion.

Hochul also unveiled a series of new proposals to incentivize new housing construction and the rehabilitation of existing housing. To support the development of mixed-income housing outside of New York City, Governor Hochul will direct New York State Homes and Community Renewal to make $5 million in state low-income housing tax credits available.

Hochul will also make necessary changes to ensure that localities where new housing developments utilize payment in lieu of taxes agreements are not penalized in tax cap calculations, she said.

After the address, the Long Island Housing Coalition expressed support for the plan: "We are a pro-homes, pro-Long Island coalition of community organizations, businesses, developers, housing advocates, homeowners, and home renters dedicated to addressing the severe lack of available affordable homes across Long Island. We are working to expand opportunities for both affordable homeownership and quality rental housing for all Long Islanders through legislation and community organizing."

Mike Florio, CEO of Long Island Builders Institute, said his group applauded Hochul for her focus and determination to address the housing crisis across the state, but especially on Long Island. He said he looked forward to working with her, along with local officials and communities, on impactful solutions

Rebecca Sanin, President/CEO, Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, added: “Community well-being depends on a diverse, safe and quality housing stock that serves all of its residents including seniors, students, people with disabilities and families."

A lack of attainable and affordable housing injures public health, safety, competitive employment and retention of rising young adults as emerging professionals on Long Island, she said.

"The lack of safe, affordable housing on Long Island continually emerges as a top issue impacting our region and innovative, thoughtful solutions are desperately needed to secure Long Island’s healthy future," Sanin added.

Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services, Inc., also weighed in.

“It is clear to every Long Islander that our lack of housing — especially affordable housing — is beyond a crisis. The methods that we have historically used on Long Island to allocate the production of housing have been failing us all for quite some time.”

Gwen O’Shea, Community Development Corporation of Long island President & CEO, added" “There is no question about Long Island’s dire need of diverse housing options. The governor’s recognition of our housing crisis is a welcomed opportunity to ensure our residences and communities have safe and affordable housing."

And, said Michael Daly, founder ofEast End YIMBY: “The existence of restrictive, primarily single-family, zoning on the East End of Long Island, along with a lack of as-of-right zoning for multi-family and accessory dwelling units, has created a human infrastructure crisis for our towns, villages and businesses. This crisis is resulting in families being broken apart, healthcare jobs being left unfilled, volunteer fire departments and EMTs struggling to find members, schools understaffed, leaving some subjects without teachers, municipal offices unable to process public permit applications on a timely basis, and businesses reducing hours or closing due to the lack of staffing."

He added: "It also creates harm to our environment due to excessive 'trade parade' traffic by workers, needing to travel hours each day to their jobs. It's past time to tackle this cultural addiction to single-family zoning and establish requirements for every city, town and village to provide adequate housing for the people and businesses that make up their communities."

Not every municipality embraced the plan as warmly, with some concerned about the state intervening if the housing goals were not met as quickly as Hochul has suggested.

In a briefing this week, Huntington was "singled out" for permitting construction of just 934 homes and apartments over the past decade, according to the New York Post.

Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth said he believed the town "will exceed the governor’s goals, but it will be done without the governor’s heavy-handed involvement," Newsday reported.

And, Newsday added: Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said he was concerned Hochul's plan could restrict “the will of the people.”

Other town officials said Hochul's goals echoed their own mission.

"I am still reviewing the governor's plan. We have a working group which was organized to work with a consultant to develop an affordable housing plan," said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. "Obviously, the governor's proposals will be evaluated by the group in the context of developing that plan. Most of what I've read so far is fairly consistent with our current affordable housing goals."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her State of the State address in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Albany, NY. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

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January 5, 2023

The State Should Support Free School Meals for all LI Students

By Rebecca Sanin and Bob Vecchio

January 4th, 2023

Guest essay

Read on Newsday

A quiet crisis is playing out in Long Island schools that no one is talking about. This fall, a federal policy guaranteeing free, healthy school meals for all students nationwide expired. New Yorkers across the state are feeling the impact, but we’ve been hit especially hard here on Long Island, where nearly 250,000 students lost access to free meals, seemingly overnight. 

Almost 600,000 children in New York struggle with food insecurity, and socioeconomically disadvantaged children are disproportionately impacted. Credit: Randee Daddona

But there’s good news — we can fix this. By devoting about 0.1% of next year’s state budget to funding free school meals for all New York students, our leaders in Albany can ensure our kids have the healthy meals they need to succeed in the classroom and in life. 

Almost 600,000 children in New York struggle with food insecurity, and socioeconomically disadvantaged children are disproportionately impacted. For the past two years, federal COVID-19 funding helped fill the gap, but since that funding expired this fall.

The recent federal omnibus bill made the problem even worse by cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, which will increase food insecurity for many families.

We’ve seen firsthand the impact this loss has had on our students and in our communities. School is hard enough as it is. Research shows hungry students have a harder time focusing, attend fewer classes than their peers, and are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems. Amid high inflation, parents have been forced to pay for school meals, stretching already-thin budgets, and causing many families to take on school meal debt. Other times, kids simply don’t eat at all.

Funding healthy school meals for all is a proven way to support our students and increase equity in education. For just $275 per student per year — less than the price of many textbooks — we can boost overall academic performance and improve behavioral health while reducing academic achievement gaps. This investment will yield a return in reduced costs for mental health services, stressors on other human service agencies such as food pantries, and pediatric medical costs.

In addition, providing healthy meals for all kids allows schools to devote more resources to teaching. Universal free school meals provide relief to families struggling to make ends meet and eliminate millions in unpaid school meal debt. Plus, by enabling schools to purchase ingredients in larger quantities, healthy meals for all lowers per-student lunch prices, freeing up funds for schools to provide more programs and better learning tools for our kids.

All of these benefits will be magnified on Long Island. Across Nassau and Suffolk counties, 578 schools — nearly 90% of schools on Long Island — would benefit from state funding for universal free school meals.

Many other states — including California, Maine, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Vermont — have already funded free meals for all students and the policy is overwhelmingly popular. Almost 90% of New Yorkers support free school meals for all; more than 200 education, parent and teacher groups, labor unions, and anti-hunger advocates have joined the campaign; and 71 state legislators have signed a letter calling for New York to fund free school meals for all.

Long Island has borne the brunt of the loss of federal funding for free school meals. Now it’s time for our leaders in Albany to step up for our kids by funding universal free school meals.

This guest essay reflects the views of Rebecca Sanin, chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of LI, and Bob Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.

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Established in 1947, the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI) is a regional, nonprofit umbrella organization for health and human service providers. We are dedicated to improving the lives of Long Island’s most vulnerable residents by responding to their needs through the promotion and development of public policies and direct services.

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Phone: 516-483-1110

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E-mail: connect@hwcli.com

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