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April 29, 2024 13 mins
Non-profits designed to assist the elderly offer myriad essential services, including access to food, healthcare and companionship. However, workers in the field earn wages—set by contracts with the city and state—that often place them below the poverty line. Despite calls from advocates for a significant cost of living adjustment, responses have been largely ignored.  Our guest is Jeremy Kaplan, Executive Director of Encore Community Services, one of the largest aging services providers in New York City.  For more, visit encorenyc.org
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(00:02):
Welcome to Get Connected with Nina delRio, a weekly conversation about fitness,
health and happenings in our community onone oh six point seven Light FM.
Good morning, and thanks for listeningto Get Connected. Nonprofits designed to assist
the elderly offer marriad essential services.However, workers in the field earn wages

(00:23):
set by contracts with the city andstate that often place them below the poverty
line. Despite calls from advocates fora significant cost of living adjustment, responses
have largely been ignored. We're joinedby Jeremy Kaplan, executive director of Encore
Community Services, one of the largestaging service providers in New York City.
Jeremy Kaplan, welcome back to theshow. Oh thank you Nina for having

(00:46):
me. The website is Encore NYCdot org. The mission of OnCore Community
Services is to provide care and serviceto the elderly of the Clinton Times Square
Midtown communities and to any elderly personwho comes to them to help them with
their daily needs, that they mightlive as independently as possible, with dignity
and decency, in a non institutionalmanner, in a safe and caring environment.

(01:10):
So, Jeremy, I've just givena brief overew of what you do
at Encore, can you share someinsights into the kinds of challenges older adults
in New York City are facing andhow your organization on core works to meet
them. First of all, thanksagain, thanks again for having me.
It's really great to be speaking withUnina. New York City challenge is that
that older adults are facing. Look, the population of New York City is

(01:34):
getting older, and that's a greatthing. We're living longer, but we
know New York City is the mostexpensive city in the country. It's one
of the most expensive cities in theworld. Older adults are living on fixed
incomes and they're still experiencing the sameinflation that everyone else is experiencing. So
it's becoming harder and harder just tomanage day to day as a retired person.

(01:59):
But on top of that, ageismis pervasive in our city. We're
an extremely youth centric city, whichmeans that in New York, as you
get older, you're more likely toage alone. Friends and family move away,
they pass away, and because we'resuch a youth centric city, it's
easy for older adults to kind ofage. What we say is age and

(02:19):
the shadows, so loneliness, socialisolation compounded with how expensive this city is
and living on a fixed income.And unfortunately, these issues affect black and
brown communities and immigrant communities disproportionately,as do so many other social dilemmas.
But in OnCore community services, theway that we address that is, you

(02:40):
know, we offer we offer avariety of of of spaces and opportunities for
older adults to connect with one anotherand to connect with their community. We
feed them, we nourish them.We have two robust older adult centers where
we have a team of social workers. We provide meals. We provide a

(03:00):
hot, fresh cooked meal every singleday for folks who are either homebound or
folks who want to come visit usat our centers. We offer recreation,
We offer lifelong learning and arts andarts and education classes, and we help
people problem solve you know, wehelp them navigate very complicated systems in New
York City to get them their entitlementsand to get them the access to programs

(03:23):
and services that they deserve. Butmost importantly, we connect people with one
another so that they're not lonely.We connect older adults to older adults.
We connect older adults with younger peoplein all different kinds of settings, whether
it's at a monthly birthday party,or whether it's through a painting class,
or whether it's through a dance classor a zoomba or a tai chi class.

(03:44):
But the most important thing that wedo is we help people understand that
they're never alone. So this workis done by human beings connecting all these
people, feeding all these people,taking care of folks. As I mentioned
in the intro, it's been achallenge for not just you, but other
human services providers, especially to theelderly, to hire and maintain staff because

(04:05):
of wages. If you don't mindgiving putting a finger on this, what
does that look like? So youknow, just to take take a step
back, The City of New Yorkdepends on nonprofit organizations human service providers to
essentially be the safety net for thecity. These are employees who are they're

(04:27):
educating children, they are after schoolworkers, they are feeding older adults,
they are they're social workers, theyare they are transporting people from point A
to point B, you name it. Without human service workers, our city
could not function. And unfortunately,human service contracts have been historically underfunded and

(04:48):
have not kept up with the paceof inflation, and a majority of the
workers, who are also black andbrown and predominantly women employees, experience the
same type of poverty and experience thesame type of challenges as the very people
that they are trying to serve andthere trying to help. And so it

(05:08):
creates this vicious cycle where you're doingthe work because you're committed to the mission
and because you've committed your career togiving back to your community, but at
the same time you're struggling living inyour own city. Why would you Why
would you be a social caseworker inan older adult center? You know,

(05:29):
when you can be a caseworker ora social worker in a hospital making ninety
thousand dollars in the hospital or more, and only making forty five thousand dollars
in the older adult center. Sofor people who aren't aware, how are
the wages set? What does anagency like yours have control over? In
what don't you? For example,on Core Community Services is the leading home

(05:49):
delivered meals provider for the West Sideof Manhattan, So that means that we're
delivering about five hundred thousand freshly cookedmeals to older adults who are unable to
leave their homes because they're frail,they have chronic illness, or for a
variety of reasons. They're able tolive an agent place in their homes because
we're delivering the meals and we're checkingon them and we're making sure that they

(06:11):
have what they need so that theycan avoid institutional care. The person that's
delivering the meal, it's not justa transaction. They're knocking on the door.
They know the older adult, they'rea friendly face. They're checking on
them. They're asking whether or notthey have everything they need that day.
If the older adult is in distress, or if they peek in the door
and they see that there's something happeningin the home, then they will connect

(06:33):
them to services and to help.And so this is this requires a very
skilled, very thoughtful, very compassionateperson. We can barely pay those delivery
staff a minimum wage. We canbarely barely pay them slightly above minimum wage.
And in this city, it's it'sjust not livable. And those wages
are set by the state. Humanservice wages are set by the contracts that

(06:57):
we have with the city and withthe state. So each content tract has
a set and fixed budget by whichwe have to make it all work.
We have to purchase and cook thefood, We have to take care of
our facilities, in our equipment.All of the cost and expenses of providing
the services and funding the staff areat fixed levels, and often these contracts

(07:18):
remain at fixed levels for years andyears at a time, with very little
movement on the compensation side. Ourguest is Jeremy Kaplan. He's executive director
of Encore Community Services since July twentyeighteen. He's played a pivotal role in
expanding Encore's public and private partnerships andpositioning the organization as a leader in food

(07:39):
security and social connections for older NewYorkers. Jeremy Kaplan is an outspoken advocate
for aging services and human service workers. You can find more about OnCore at
encore NYC dot org. You're listeningto get connected on one oh six point
seven light FM Imina del Rio.So. Advocates like yourself Jeremy have been
pushing for at least a cost ofliving adjustment for human service workers. There

(08:01):
was a rally at the Capitol inAlbany in early March asking for three point
two percent even if that comes through, how far will that go to address
the issue? What would you advocatefor? Last year, around this time,
the Human Services Council brought out wellover six thousand human service employees to

(08:22):
march in front of City Hall beggingfor a cost of living for a cost
of living increase. This is aplea that human service workers have been making
for quite some time because the wagesthat are set by human service contracts,
the wages that are set by thecity and the state, are just not
livable. Our employees are living belowthe poverty line. So if a cost

(08:46):
of living increase is included in theupcoming budget cycle, then yes, that's
that's a win in the sense thatit costs seven dollars a gallon for milk
right now, so if you geta few extra dollars in your paycheck,
it's going to help you purchase thatgallon of milk. But at the end
of the day, what is itreally going to do to make a dent

(09:07):
right in the most expensive city inthe world. We need wage parity,
we need livable wages. We needa driver, we need a staff person
who's transporting food from point A topoint B. For older adults to make
the same type of wage that adriver in the MTA might make, or
that a driver for ups might make. We need a social worker who's helping

(09:31):
older adults navigate extremely complicated entitlement systemsto make the same salary that a social
worker and a school maker that asocial worker in a hospital would make.
So it's not just about cost ofliving increase. It's about parity, and
it's about livability in our city.Recently, I had a conversation a couple
of weeks ago about the wage gapwith a New York City based organization which

(09:54):
actually recruits and trains women for theconstruction trades. They're called non traditional Careers
for Women, and she talked aboutsome of the best candidates being home health
aids and people who work in thearea that you work in, because they
have time management skills, they're greatcommunicators, they have physical stamina, and
yet they aren't valued in part becausethey're often women, and they're often minority

(10:16):
women. Part of the issue,of course, then, as you've talked
earlier, they're minority workers and they'reyou know, these are roles that are
not valued to some extent. Thiswork is so essential, but yet it's
not value, you know. Ithink it goes back to our biases as
a city, right. I thinkas an organization that's focused on older adults,

(10:39):
I see that the number one issuefacing our city is agism, and
that has such pervasive effects on howwe value the people that are actually doing
the work to make this city aplace where you can live in age for
as long as possible. Because becausewe're because we are an inherently ageist society,

(11:01):
we're we are afraid of getting older, and we're afraid of talking about
that. We we don't value thework that goes into making the city a
better place to age in the waythat we should. And I think the
same is true in other types ofhuman service, you know, in any
type of human service field, weyou know, we we we need to
we need to value the importance ofproviding community care and taking care of one

(11:24):
another and giving back to the peoplethat built our city and without without the
recognition of the value in those things, and and and how critical it is
to be a place where, nomatter what, New York City is going
to be a safe and livable placefor everybody until until we embrace that as
a as a culture we're not goingto value the people that choose to dedicate

(11:46):
their lives to making the city abetter place to live. For someone listening,
you know, you're out there advocatingfor yourself, for other human services
workers, for the work that youdo. For someone listening, what can
they do to kind of jump inthis conversation and for you, your staff
and the seniors you serve. Ithink one it's it's acknowledged to yourself that
this is in somebody else's problem.I think it's acknowledging that we're all living

(12:09):
in the same city, we're allgetting older, and we need to take
care of one another. So it'sit's easy to say, oh, that's
the government's job, or that's youknow, that's the nonprofit across the streets
job, but really it's it's ourjob. You know, ask ask your
neighbors how they're doing. Check inon them. If there's somebody living in
your building and they're living alone andthey're and they're older, knock on the

(12:31):
door and say how you doing,how you feeling? You know, do
you want do you want to chat? Or you can get involved with organizations
like Encore. You can go toour website www. Acre nyc dot org,
and there are all types of opportunitiesto volunteer, deliver a meal,
serve food at one of our centers, teach a class, become a become
a friendly visitor. But just justrecognize that we are all getting older and

(12:54):
and have an obligation to to takecare of one another throughout the course of
our our our lives. We shouldcherish our elderly as much as we cherish
and helder our children safe and dear. You can find out more about OnCore,
including volunteer opportunities as Jeremy just mentionedat Encore NYC dot org. Jeremy
Kaplan, thank you for being onGet Connected. Thank you Anita. This

(13:18):
has been get connected with Nina delRio on one oh six point seven light
Fm. The views and opinions ofour guests do not necessarily reflect the views
of the station. If you missedany part of our show or want to
share it, visit our website fordownloads and podcasts at one oh six to
seven lightfm dot com. Thanks forlistening.
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