Hochul’s Minuscule 2.5 Percent COLA Detrimental to Human Services Industry and Those it Serves

Contact: Santino R. Thomas
(518) 949-4809 | [email protected]

Commentary from Frank Pindiak, Executive Director of St. Catherine’s Center for Children

Human services professionals work with society’s most vulnerable individuals and families. At St. Catherine’s Center for Children, our team provides programming and services for children who have experienced significant trauma, families who find themselves homeless, individuals in need of basic services but not sure where to turn and so much more. The need for these services is never ending, which makes the jobs of our case workers and other professionals a 24/7 commitment. New York state’s level of commitment to human services workers must reflect their commitment to those they serve.

Many of our programs and services are funded, in part or in whole, by the State; that includes salaries. So, when inflation is out of control and the cost of living skyrockets, New York must step up and ensure human services workers – who give so much of themselves to ensure the well-being of others – can make ends meet and take care of their own families. To its credit, the State provided a 5.4 percent Cost-of-Living-Adjustment last year. However, it did not match the 6.5 percent inflation rate meaning human services workers essentially received a pay cut.

This year, the COLA will need to be approximately 8.5 percent to keep salaries where they should be. In her Executive Budget Proposal, Gov. Kathy Hochul has offered up $500 million – the same amount as last year – to provide COLAs. That works out to a mere 2.5 percent raise: essentially a 6 percent pay cut for human services workers. While the proposed increase is a step in the right direction, especially after more than a decade without increases for human services workers prior to 2022, it isn’t enough for agencies like St. Catherine’s to hope to retain its current staff, let alone hire additional staff to meet the ever-growing needs of the Capital Region and beyond.

Without the dedicated team at St. Catherine’s and those of many other non-profit organizations, New York will see its homeless rate soar, children in abusive situations with nowhere to go, and more families split up. This is the cause taken up by human services workers. We are on the front lines advocating for children, fighting homelessness, and keeping families together.

Our elected officials must prioritize adequate Cost-of-Living-Adjustments for human services workers to ensure that the state’s most vulnerable individuals and families have somewhere to turn. If Gov. Hochul cannot seem to make room for adequate funding, it is up to members of the state Legislature to hold her accountable and demand the 8.5 percent increase that is necessary. Now is the time, during budget negotiations, that they must stand up and make known, on behalf of their constituents, that they will not accept anything less than an 8.5 percent Cost-of-Living-Adjustment for human services workers.

Without a proper COLA, many people will suffer. We implore our elected officials to do the right thing and include an 8.5 percent pay increase for human services workers in this year’s budget.