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

March 28, 2023

Advocates Call for Free School Meals in NY’s 2024 Budget

Posted on March 27, 2023

By Briana Bonfiglio

Read on Long Island Press

Elected officials, advocates, and parents gathered on Friday to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to include free school meals in the upcoming state budget for fiscal year 2024.

Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, calls on Gov. Kathy Hochul to include free school meals in the upcoming budget.Courtesy Health & Welfare Council of Long Island

The $280 million Healthy School Meals for All program would provide universal free school meals to all students, whose school lunch debt has increased significantly since a federal Covid-19 program that covered meal fees ended in June 2022.

“Long Island parents, schools, and communities are fiercely committed to advancing healthy school meals for all children in New York State,” said Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of Health & Welfare Council of Long Island. “In a time in which hunger is on the rise and families face many post-pandemic challenges, ensuring that our youngest New Yorkers are provided with nutritious meals not only impacts health, educational, and psychological outcomes for children, it also reduces stress and promotes healthy families, a key priority for New York State.”

State Sen. Kevin Thomas calls on Gov. Kathy Hochul to include free school meals in the upcoming budget.Courtesy Health & Welfare Council of Long Island

Nearly 243,000 students in Nassau and Suffolk counties have lost access to free meals, according to the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, which was joined by the Nassau-Suffolk School Board Association and the Healthy School Meals for All Kids Coalition at Friday’s news conference at Jefferson Primary School in Huntington Station.

The policy has bipartisan support in the New York legislature and nearly 90% of New Yorkers support it, according to the organizations.

“With rising food costs straining families that struggle to make ends meet, I believe we have a responsibility to combat food insecurity at school each day with healthy meals at no cost,” said State Sen. Kevin Thomas.  “I’m proud that our one-house budget is prioritizing the health and safety of our students with unprecedented funding allocated for universal free school meals. No child should ever go hungry at school simply because they didn’t qualify or felt ashamed to ask for assistance.”

The state budget is due April 1.

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March 24, 2023

As Staffs Dwindle, Post-COVID Nonprofits Seek Answers

Posted on March 24, 2023

By: Jeffrey Reynolds

Read on InnovateLI

Long Island relies on community-based nonprofit organizations to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, heal the anxious, support the depressed and addicted and otherwise help our less-fortunate neighbors.

Retention intervention: Employees at many nonprofit organizations rallied during COVID, but keeping them in the fold post-pandemic is proving difficult, according to Family and Children's Association President and CEO Jeffrey Reynolds.

Just like everyone else, popular Island-wide charities like Long Island Cares, the Sunrise Association (and its popular camp for kids with cancer) and my own Family and Children’s Association – along with smaller niche organizations like the Backstretch Employee Service Team of NY, which provides health services to workers at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga racetracks – all had to power through COVID.

At FCA, our teachers, social workers, mental-health and substance-abuse counselors, residential workers and other direct-care professionals don’t work from home. While others contemplated new hobbies and posted “quarantini” recipes, our staff showed up every day, prioritizing other families over their own and struggling to stay healthy, physically and emotionally.

In short, nonprofit workers stepped up. But now that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us, more and more of them are stepping out.

Some of them are jumping to other organizations for incremental salary increases or taking their chances with telehealth startups. But many are leaving health-and-human-services altogether – choosing retail, customer service or even Amazon package delivery, all better for their pocketbooks and maybe their hearts.

Jeffrey Reynolds: Exodus explained.

A global workforce study by McKinsey & Company confirms that this reshuffling goes beyond the “Great Resignation” and the nation’s low unemployment levels. The July 2022 report says that 72 percent of workers who left their public sector/nonprofit jobs in the past two years went to work in another industry – or left the workforce altogether.

Chronically low wages and increasing job insecurity, matched with skyrocketing inflation, probably pushed some social workers to the brink. The persistent lack of affordable childcare options likely played a role as well, especially since 75 percent of the nonprofit workforce is female.

Factor in COVID and its aftermath, and the exodus becomes obvious.

“Nonprofit organizations are having to continually confront burnout among employees who haven’t had a break from the escalating need in three years, and whose own trauma and experiences associated with the pandemic are impactful in their lives,” says Rebecca Sanin, who leads the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island.

As National Social Work month comes to a close, a new study published in the journal International Social Work finds that an alarming 40 percent of surveyed Canadian social workers reported symptoms of depression – four times higher than the general population. One-fifth of those surveyed believe they have PTSD and 15 percent report an anxiety disorder.

Study researchers conclude there’s a “need for workplaces to develop policies and practices … supporting social workers and their wellbeing.” Sure, but that’s not as easy as it sounds, considering dwindling pandemic-related government relief, cautious nonprofit doners spooked by a looming recession and always-increasing demand for counseling, case management, housing and other mental-health services.

All together now: The Family and Children’s Association staff pulled together during the pandemic.

Bottom line: There are fewer people struggling to do more work. More than half of nonprofits surveyed recently by accounting and advisory firm Forvis said that their ability to deliver programs and services has been hampered by staffing shortages – and 78 percent are pulling out all the stops to fill staff vacancies.

Many organizations have increased salaries and boosted benefits to get staff in the door, hoping that financial support will continue to be there. Others have prioritized flexible work arrangements, professional-development opportunities and organizational commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Meanwhile, health-and-human-services advocates are pushing New York State for an 8.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for frontline staff, while Suffolk County used $1.25 million of its opioid settlement funds to support new training for credentialed addiction and substance-abuse counselors.

And the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island just hosted a first-ever nonprofit job fair that matched more than 200 job-seekers with opportunities at 75 regional nonprofits.

Like most big trends, the exodus from the nonprofit sector is complicated. But giving staff the same livable wages, quality healthcare benefits, fair working conditions and equitable opportunities we promote in our mission statements might help bring them back to the work they once loved.

Jeffrey Reynolds is the president and CEO of the Garden City-based Family and Children’s Association.

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March 24, 2023

Free school meals for all NY schoolchildren should be 'fully funded' by Gov. Hochul, advocates say

Updated March 24, 2023

By Olivia Winslow

Read on Newsday

Ensuring schoolchildren don't go hungry, and eliminating the stigma some say is associated with free or reduced school meals, brought together more than a dozen Democratic and Republican state legislators, school officials and advocates Friday who called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to "fully fund" a free school meals program for all students.

Advocates, school officials and legislators joined together Friday at Jefferson Primary School in Huntington to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to fully fund a free school meals for all program in this year's state budget. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

"I'm here today to call upon the governor to fully fund Healthy School Meals in the 2024 budget," said Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, an umbrella group representing about 300 nonprofits. She and others noted the governor's proposed budget did not include funding for the school meals program. However, both the Senate and Assembly have put funding for the program in their proposed budget bills.

"During the worst days of the pandemic, universal free meals were something families could count on. And since that program expired [last June], 243,000 children on Long Island lost their access to free school meals," Sanin said during an event in the cafeteria at Jefferson Primary School in Huntington to promote funding the free meals program.

In a statement to Newsday, the governor's spokesperson did not directly address whether Hochul would support including the $280 million that legislators from both chambers have put in their "one-house budget bills" for the school meals program. The statement said: "Governor Hochul's Executive Budget makes transformative investments to make New York more affordable, more livable and safer, and she looks forward to working with the legislature on a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers."

Bob Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau Suffolk School Boards Association, noted the widespread need for food aid. "This issue is not just about meals in this building, it's how it impacts the community as a whole."

Jim Polansky, superintendent of Huntington schools, said going from the federally funded universal free school meal program during the pandemic back to "standard practice" had caused an increase in student meal debt. "Some families are struggling more than they were before the pandemic …"

State Sen. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) and State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) noted the bipartisan support for the measure and offered personal testimonies.

"This is personal for me," said Thomas. "When I immigrated to this country with my family back in 1995, I remember going to school and not having money to pay for school lunch. … there were days where I sat there at the lunch table … and looking at what my friends were eating and not having anything. So this is the right thing to do."

Murray agreed. "I was raised by a single mom working three jobs. We were on food stamps, welfare. And I was in the free and reduced breakfast and lunch program. And let me tell you, there was a stigma. They would point. They would whisper. … And that's the stigma that goes with it. We have to erase that. We have to make sure every child, every child that is hungry is fed. That's our job. That's our duty."

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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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110 Walt Whitman Road, Suite 101, Huntington Station, NY 11746

Phone: 516-483-1110

Fax: 516-483-4794

E-mail: connect@hwcli.com

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