Tag: CNY

Feeding the Community During COVID-19

COVID-19, one of the largest pandemics in world history, disrupted the lives of millions. Government entities were forced to close down businesses and schools to keep residents safe, resulting in job and income loss. Organizations began to respond to a wave of people facing challenges to accessing food.

The network of nonprofits collaborating on the Life Needs Assessment project (more about this later), however, looked at their real-time data and saw something different than they expected; the data showed that food needs were actually largely being met. This seeming contradiction led our community to look further and to reach out to key players in this field to learn more.

“The presence of these data was a seeming contradiction with national news media hype,” said Frank Ridzi, vice president, community investment at the Central New York Community Foundation. “Images of long lines at food pantries led to further investigation and discussion with food distribution professionals and even follow-ups with individuals who had completed the Life Needs Assessment.”

The Life Needs Assessment is a data source, managed by the Community Foundation, accessible to local funders and organizations committed to serving and helping the community. It functions as a centralized location for these groups to share up to the day information with each other about current needs of their clients and how those are changing.

One of the first places we looked was a long-term partner of the Community Foundation, the Food Bank of Central New York, which serves as a food provider to hundreds of thousands of families in our local community. Luckily, we learned, the federal government implemented legislation that supported farmers and food banks around the nation during the crisis. The result was that desperately needed food was making it into the homes of millions of families. “We have a fire hose of food and we are directing it wherever it needs to go,” said Brian McManus, chief operations officer at Food Bank of Central New York. This was a reassuring finding during an otherwise unnerving period of time.

The Food Bank partners with 370 different food pantries and agencies in Central and Northern New York. The pandemic disrupted typical operations such as sorting and transportation, forcing the organization to be creative on how to get food to those in need. They quickly adapted by implementing more mobile distributions in the communities they serve. Many volunteers and employees spent their evenings and weekends packing food in preparation for deliveries the next day.

“We had to change our model of distribution because it is typically very interactive,” said Karen Belcher, executive director of the Food Bank of CNY. “We found the need to partner with more community organizations in order to expand our accessibility and reach more families, individuals and seniors at this very uncertain time.

The pandemic brought many hardships and challenges for individuals and their families. The Nourish New York Initiative and emergency federal funding helped the Food Bank to obtain food to keep up with the accelerated demand. The Nourish New York Initiative provides funding to the Food Bank to directly purchase fresh produce from local farmers. This permanent initiative secures economic stability for farmers and consistent flow of food for food banks.

“Our pantries have been key partners during the pandemic,” said Belcher. “If the food pantries and soup kitchens hadn’t remained open, our work would have been much different than what we found ourselves in.”

Today, the Food Bank connects to 39 different farmers who grow and produce food. This leads to over 2.2 million pounds of produce and dairy products distributed to the community. To support the efforts to distribute and deliver food, the Central New York Community Foundation awarded them with more than $55,000 in funding from its COVID-19 Community Support Fund.

“The Community Foundation has been a huge resource,” said Belcher. “We share information to collaborate on tackling food insecurity in our communities.”

The Food Bank gives major appreciation and gratitude to the community for stepping up during this trying time for fellow residents.

“Donors and volunteers were major contributors to the effectiveness of packing and distributing food to families,” Belcher stated. “People came in with smiling faces ready to serve.”

The Life Needs Assessment that led CNYCF to re-connect with the Food Bank during this moment of crises is useful not only in identifying where immediate needs are emerging, but also in assuring us when key needs are being met. In this case, it helped us to come to appreciate one of the pandemic’s success stories, that much of the need was being met by the work of the Food Bank of Central New York.

To learn more about the Food Bank of Central New York, visit https://foodbankcny.org/.

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Eviction Part 2: The Eviction Moratorium, CARES Act and More

This is part two of a two-part series that takes an in-depth look at evictions and how they contribute to the health of Central New York, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a financial crisis for many families. Read more to see how both renters and landlords can avoid evictions and create a better region with higher property values, safer housing and more economic opportunities. Click HERE to read the first part of the series.

Evictions aren’t always avoidable, but in some cases the tenants and landlords just need more information in order to prevent a disaster. Along with ensuring access to safe housing and preventing homelessness, helping residents avoid evictions in Central New York is a major goal for both the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County (VLP) and The Syracuse Tenants Union (STU). Both organizations are distributing information and offering counsel to help tenants live in sustainable housing and avoid red marks on their housing resumés, especially during this turbulent time of a national pandemic and financial crisis.

STU is in the process of creating a tenants’ handbook that gives specifics to rental property tenants on how to make sure they are protected. The handbook, which is currently in production, offers a comprehensive list of what the tenants should know, including a description of their rights, how to seek legal counsel before they have a problem and the importance of keeping receipts and documenting interactions with landlords and Code Enforcement.

VLP offers trainings and legal counsel to residents facing eviction, as well as representation in court. If landlords assist their tenants by recommending counsel from VLP, they often can work out an agreement in which no one ends up in court. “The big goal for us is homelessness prevention,” said Sally Curran, executive director of VLP.

There are many complex laws and proceeds that the two organizations can help residents navigate.

For instance, the 2019 Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act was put into place to help families avoid homelessness and desperation by giving them additional time to plan prior to eviction. The new act gives tenants a 14-day warning, then 10-17 days of notice, a 14-day court adjournment and finally 14 days for tenants to leave. The act was designed to help residents comfortably relocate after researching a new property and building up funds. Previously, tenants were only allowed a few days of nonpayment before eviction proceedings began.

Any eviction can create issues if the tenant tries to rent or buy in the future. The eviction process for both tenants and landlords is time consuming and has major cost implications. Landlords nearly always have legal representation, yet the tenants rarely have counsel because they often can’t afford it. The outcome is that tenants, even if they show up to plead their case, may owe many months’ worth of back rent. The tenants will be asked to present documentation and receipts, yet without them they may not be able to prove hardship. “Having representation in court substantially changes the outcome for the tenants,” said Curran. “The misbalance of power without legal representation becomes really profound.”

After an eviction, tenants may owe thousands in back rent, but that could potentially be reduced if they have access to legal counsel. They also may not receive their hefty security deposit back (even if the code violations existed before they moved in originally), making it that much harder to find a new home. This is how a family may hurriedly choose another poorly kept property and continue the cycle of unreliable housing, putting their confidence and well-being at further risk.

The New York State Tenant Safe Harbor Act, which was established during the COVID-19 crisis to place a temporary moratorium on evictions, is not a free ride. It simply means that you can’t be evicted until after the pandemic crisis has passed. The moratorium is helpful in that it is specifically designed to keep people out of a homeless situation during a pandemic. According to the moratorium, which started on March 16, 2020, no renter who is unable to pay their rent due to circumstances caused by COVID-19 will be evicted until Governor Cuomo changes the terms. The end date of the moratorium has been pushed forward to January 1, 2021 at the time of this article’s release.

The moratorium is not a rent waiver, despite popular belief. If a tenant can pay their rent, then they should pay. At the end of the moratorium, VLP expects that its services will be even more necessary because these renters will need to provide documentation in court proving that it was an unavoidable hardship that caused their non-payment.

Regardless, tenants must pay their unpaid rent at some point. The Act states: “A court can never use unpaid rent that accrued during the COVID-19 period as the basis for a non-payment eviction of a financially burdened tenant; however, a court could impose a money judgment.” While the moratorium is helpful, there’s little chance that people can navigate this information well. Palmer Harvey of The Syracuse Tenants Union states, “The written legal terms of the moratorium don’t make sense to the average person. They need a version in laymen’s terms.” There are currently one million people in NYS who need rental assistance.

In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act may also provide additional funding to offset the burden of unpaid rent. The CARES Act was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020. This economic relief package delivers this administration’s commitment to protecting the public from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The CARES Act provides economic assistance for workers, families and small businesses. The CARES Act should help those who are able to sufficiently document their inability to pay their rent, but with so many in New York State who need rental assistance, the money could run out. Having legal representation for an eviction moratorium case will benefit the tenant greatly.

Legal representation from a case manager will reduce confusion around what could be a messy legal situation. Avoiding evictions, especially during a pandemic, helps to create a safe and healthy community for everyone, including landlords.

Landlords can help by addressing a situation before it turns into a legal undertaking; everyone will save time and money. Landlords can refer their tenants to VLP to speak with a case manager. Additionally, on September 14, 2020, Syracuse passed an additional renter protection: Now, landlords who have failed to register their one-and-two-family rental homes will be barred from evicting tenants if they do not participate in in the City’s rental registry.

Recently, the COVID-19 Community Support Fund provided grants to VLP and STU. STU is creating educational materials regarding evictions and renters’ rights. Both VLP and STU required personal protective equipment in order to meet with clients and conduct virtual court cases (in which the attorney is present with their client while the judge and landlord are virtual). VLP will also hire and pay law students to help with legal and pre-eviction counsel.

The COVID-19 Community Support Fund is a partnership of the Central New York Community Foundation, The United Way of Central New York, the Allyn Family Foundation, The Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation, the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York and the City of Syracuse & Onondaga County. They established the Fund to support nonprofit organizations working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the fund has raised over $1.8 million from which vital funding is rapidly deployed to support the region’s greatest needs.

Curran states, “Fewer evictions means that in the long-term, Syracuse property values will go up, there will be more economic opportunities and the unhealthy wealth gap in Central New York will be lessened.”

For more information on STU, email syrtenantsunion@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page.

To contact the Volunteer Lawyers Project for legal counsel, visit their website or call 315.471.3409.

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Eviction: The Harsh Reality of Living in Syracuse

In this multi-part series, CNYVitals will take an in-depth look at evictions and how they contribute to the health of Central New York, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a financial crisis for many families. Read more to see how both renters and landlords can avoid evictions and create a better region with higher property values, safer housing and more economic opportunities.

Sixty percent of Syracuse residents are renters. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, about 20% of those renters move at least once per year, sometimes more. This is due to a combination of risk factors, such as low wages, inadequate public assistance, code enforcement violations and overpriced housing which have led to dire situations for both tenants and landlords. According to a 2017 study from the Maxwell Community Benchmarks Program, “Syracuse is severely residentially unstable.”

How can tenants live in safe housing that they can afford? And, how can landlords save themselves time and money by avoiding evictions? It’s a complicated problem but the answer may be that Syracuse-area residents can benefit the most if a solution is crafted with both renters and landowners in mind.

When a family is considering renting a home, they ideally would first sit down to decide what they can afford. But this isn’t always the case if they are in a desperate situation, such as fleeing abuse or high levels of lead. When a renter is anxious to put a roof over their heads, it changes the playing field for both tenants and landlords.

Several lending agencies recommend that the cost of an individual’s housing come in at around 30% of their gross income. According to Palmer Harvey, founder of the Syracuse Tenants’ Union, the average individual living in the city of Syracuse makes just over $20,000 per year, which means that if they are living on a single income, they should live in an apartment that costs about $480 per month. A two-bedroom apartment in Syracuse costs around $850 per month. Already, the issue is clear. A single-income family may need to spend upwards of 50% of their wages on housing, meaning less money is available to put food on the table. Since unplanned financial events could always be around the corner, it’s easy to see how a family in this scenario could get behind on their rent.

Public assistance is available to help people get into housing that they can’t quite afford, however it presents some challenges. According to deputy commissioner of the Department of Social Services – Economic Security and Temporary Assistance, Jennifer Robinson, the shelter allowance provided by New York State hasn’t been re-configured to accommodate the rising cost of living since 2012. For instance, a family with three children would receive $303 in housing assistance. This inadequate amount increases the risk of tenants entering housing with low maintenance or housing violations. Section 8 Housing can also be helpful by providing vouchers that cover the balance, but there is a long waiting list due to high demand for a limited number of housing vouchers, making them hard to utilize in an urgent situation.

Before a tenant moves into a residence, they can check the Syracuse city website to see exactly what the code violations are for the rental unit or landlord with whom they hope to work. But families in a desperate situation, or without easy access to the internet, may not be able to utilize this resource, leading them to enter unsafe housing. In any case, only about 40% of rental units are registered with the City – meaning many landlords are out of legal compliance and their code violations not necessarily tracked. “Syracuse is the dollar store of real estate,” said Harvey. “People can come here and buy a home for next to nothing, put in $1,000 and start to rent.”

This creates a problem for code enforcement divisions of Syracuse because there can be several “quick fixes” that can be done on a property to help it pass inspection. Landlords may fix a leak, snake a drain or patch a hole, but when the underlying causes aren’t addressed, it leaves the tenant with the same problem month after month.  Harvey says that usually, by the time a tenant has called code enforcement, they have likely been dealing with an issue for months without a fix from the landowner. Calling in problems and reporting landlords could magnify the chances that the tenant will face eviction, so it is often viewed by residents as a last resort.

According to the City of Syracuse study “Below the Line”, there are approximately 11,000 people displaced in Syracuse each year, which can result in over 6,000 children being evicted from their homes.

Evictions, according to Sally Curran, executive director of Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), can cause a long list of trickle-down problems for evicted families including job loss, depression, health issues and negative educational implications. Evictions affect a person’s ability to build intergenerational wealth by putting a negative mark on their record, which may change their ability to rent a more desirable apartment or buy a house in the future. This scenario can directly perpetuate a cycle of poverty.

What causes an eviction? Laura Rolnick, director of eviction & reentry programs for VLP, stated that 85-90% of evicted tenants simply cannot pay their rent. A much smaller percentage is due to a “hold-over” in which tenants were told to leave but didn’t, or a “claimed lease violation” in which the landlord has claimed that there was a violation of the lease.

The ideal approach is to avoid eviction altogether, but most tenants don’t know what their rights are when facing eviction. Many tenants are also not aware of the terms of their lease or agreement. A rental “lease” fixes the rental cost for the year and makes it harder for landlords to start eviction proceedings. A month-to-month agreement doesn’t provide as much protection to the renter, however notices from landlords are still required. Additionally, on September 14, 2020, Syracuse passed an additional renter protection: Now, landlords who have failed to register their one-and-two-family rental homes will be barred from evicting tenants if they do not participate in in the City’s rental registry. Palmer tells each of her clients: “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.”

In part two of this story, we will look at the Eviction Moratorium, the CARES Act and the Tenant Safe Harbor Act. Check back soon for the next part of this series on evictions in Syracuse.

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COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment Calls for Systematic Change

Written by Todd Goehle

On 4 June 2020, 26.5% of those hospitalized from COVID-19 in Onondaga County were Black. And yet, only 11.4% of the county’s total population is Black. As outlined within PEACE, Inc.’s COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment, the inequalities of our past continue to haunt our pandemic present. For the full assessment, visit the agency’s website. In the article below, Todd Goehle walks us through some of the major findings.

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of Central New York residents. But what does this mean? Who is struggling? And in what ways? How can different forms of data be used to mobilize resources? To adjust antipoverty services effectively? To help those who are most vulnerable? In May, PEACE, Inc.’s Community Engagement Team began to research these questions. Our efforts became the COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment.

The team analyzed data from national, state, and local foundations, governments, and sources. We met with community leaders, staff members, and agency clients. Client case notes were collected as well. The team also used the Central New York Community Foundation’s Life Needs Assessment Survey, receiving 230 responses over the course of 11 days in May. Through our research, the assessment comprehensively explores the pandemic’s effects on Physical and Mental Health; Youth, Family, and Senior Supports; Food and Nutrition; Employment; Education; Childcare; Housing; Access to Capital; Technology; Access to Information through informal networks and media; gender; and race and ethnicity.

Findings

Two findings are noteworthy. First, the majority of the problems seen during the pandemic are not new per se. Rather, COVID-19 has intensified long-standing structural insecurities and inequalities.

So what do these complicated ideas mean? It starts with this map of Syracuse:[1]

 

The map was produced in 1937 by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a federal agency that assigned neighborhoods 4 investment “ratings” and thus guided mortgage lending. The “riskiest,” rated “Hazardous” and colored “Red,” were based upon building conditions and racial demographics. Here, residents of color were unable to access federal loans. In “Definitely Declining” or “Yellow” neighborhoods, only 15% of residents could receive backing. Banned in 1968, “redlining” created obstacles for Black homeownership, a means for growing personal wealth historically. Redlining furthered financial disinvestment. And it deepened chronic poverty in communities of color.

Redlining, poverty, and issues of race, employment, and health have been well-documented in Syracuse.[2] More recent research by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) found that 3 of the 4 ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 case rates had large portions of yellow or redlined neighborhoods.[3] Past and present disparities are linked. County health statistics also confirm how people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Onondaga County.

Onondaga County COVID-19 Cases by Race and Race as Percent of Population (4 June 2020)[4]

 

Race Percent Hospitalized by Race Race as Percent of Population
Black or African American 26.5% 11.4%
White 59.8% 79.9%
Other 9.2% 8.7%
Unknown 4.5% 0.0%

 

During the pandemic, cities across the country have declared racism as public health crisis.[5] With the legacies of redlining clear, the research of NYCLU and now PEACE, Inc. supports this claim for Syracuse.

A second key finding from the assessment: those most vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic lack multiple basic needs. Social Determinants of Health interact and reinforce one another to impact a person’s ability to remain healthy. Let’s address food and poverty.

Throughout the pandemic, the community has worked hard to provide nutrition for those in poverty. At PEACE, Inc., only 9.7% of nearly 230 Life Needs Assessment Survey respondents answered that they lacked food.[6] Still, as NYCLU noted, significant portions of those Syracuse ZIP Codes most impacted by COVID-19 are both “redlined” and classified as food deserts.[7] Poverty is layered. For example, nearly 40% of survey respondents “spend time alone more often than they would like.”[8] More than a third lack the technology to “meet needs for work, school, or other responsibilities.”[9] How might matters of socialization connect with hunger? The closing of Senior lunches and congregate meal sites has left low-income seniors both food insecure AND isolated.[10] Senior “Meals-to-Go” services have provided nutrition and smiles for those forced to remain at home. Yet the data reveals the smiles might only be temporary. The African proverb rings true, “One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others.”

Other examples from the assessment are telling. An elderly woman raising 2 of her grandchildren can pay for groceries but lacks a car and has health conditions that make her nervous to ride the bus. A single mother struggles to cook -let alone to shop- due to a lack of home supports for her disabled child. A recently unemployed man who went to a food pantry for the first time now feels shame that he could not provide for his family. Food must be placed within wider contexts of poverty

For Action Steps, 3 policy suggestions can be recommended:

1) Services must be multifaceted, meet immediate need, and foster systematic change. The research reveals how trauma-informed services, local interventions where poverty is highest, and affordable Internet for impoverished families are just 3 examples that address long-standing inequalities and meet multiple needs.

2) Nonprofits must have difficult, inclusive conversations. By connecting the COVID-19 pandemic with longstanding inequalities, the assessment questions the effectiveness of our community’s antipoverty initiatives. It provides starting topics to advance conversation and change. And it supports the need for a) the rising community advocacy of recent months, b) more inclusive public forums, and c) equitable reform.

3) Building a Culture wherein Data is accessible to all. Like CNYVitals, the assessment provides public research and data. More transparency is needed, however. We hope critical assessments will spur partnerships and help local agencies value sharing data publicly. Defining the terms that we use to measure poverty can also challenge our underlining assumptions about it. Most think “Redlining” is bad. But can we explain it? Or connect it with the lived experiences of its victims? Trainings for staff, “lunch and learns” with the community, as well as monthly 1 to 2-page overviews are just some ways in which data can become more inclusive and equitable.

About PEACE, Inc.

Incorporated in 1968, People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, Inc. (PEACE, Inc.) is the federal designated Community Action Agency (CAA) for Syracuse, Onondaga County, and portions of Oswego County. The agency’s mission, “to help people in the community realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient,” defines its 9 antipoverty initiatives: Head Start, Family Services, Department of Energy and Housing, Senior Nutrition, Foster Grandparents, Senior Support Services, Eastwood Community Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Free Tax Preparation.


[1] Map retrieved from Central New York Community Foundation. (18 May 2018). “How the History of Redlining and I-81 Contributed to Syracuse Poverty.” CNY Vitals. Retrieved from  https://cnyvitals.org/how-the-history-of-redlining-and-i-81-contributed-to-syracuse-poverty/.

[2] See Ibid.; Onondaga County Health Department. (June 29, 2017). “Mapping the Food Environment in Syracuse, New York 2017.” Retrieved from http://www.ongov.net/health/documents/FoodEnvironment.pdf; and Urban Jobs Task Force (UJTF) and Legal Services of CNY. (2019) “Building Equity in the Trades: A Racial Equity Impact Statement.” Retrieved from https://www.ujtf.org/reis.

[3] NYCLU. (May 18, 2020). “Testimony of the New York Civil Liberties Union before the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly regarding the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Communities.” Retrieved from https://www.nyclu.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/20200518-testimony-coronavirusracialdisparities.pdf.

[4] PEACE, Inc. (2020). COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.peace-caa.org/about-us/covid-19-community-chronicle-and-needs-assessment/.

[5] Vestal, Christine. (15 June 2020). “Racism is a Public Health Crisis, says Cities and Counties.” PEW Charitable Trusts. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/06/15/racism-is-a-public-health-crisis-say-cities-and-counties.

[6] PEACE, Inc.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid.

[10] Eisenstadt, M. (May 1, 2020). “Crews bring lasagna and connection to the locked-in elderly starved for a friendly face (video).” Syracuse.com. Retrieved from https://www.syracuse.com/coronavirus/2020/05/crews-bring-lasagna-and-connection-to-the-locked-in-elderly-starved-for-a-friendly-face-video.html

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COVID-19 Expected to Cause $15 Million in Lost Arts Revenue

When New York went on pause in mid-March to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), arts, culture and heritage venues were among the groups to close their doors. Now, they will be one of the last groups eligible to reopen.

CNY Arts, a regional council that promotes, supports and celebrates arts and culture in Central New York, convened remotely with arts agencies across its seven-county service area from Central New York to the Mohawk Valley. The groups asked that we conduct a survey to understand and quantify the impact of the pandemic on local arts and entertainment organizations and artists. The Central New York Community Foundation, which expressed interest in understanding this impact as well, responded with a grant for us to engage Research Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a field survey.

The Results

With more than 265 artists and nonprofit arts organizations responses, the resulting data is humbling but not surprising. Collectively, more than 75% of the artists and cultural organizations surveyed stated the pandemic was having a severe to extremely severe impact on their livelihood or agency.

By the end of September, the loss of individual artist income is projected to be $2 million and agency income $13 million, for a total combined loss of $15 million. This data is being further explored to determine a nuanced industry-wide response to these figures.

On average, by late April to mid-May, agencies had only enough cash reserves to operate for another 23 weeks (this includes those who filed for CARES Act assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program, aka PPP). The survey revealed that without a significant infusion of relief funding, starting as early as this summer through early November, many agencies may need to entirely suspend operations or permanently close their doors. The study also revealed that, on average, four full-time equivalents had already been let go from each cultural organization at the time of the survey.

Individual artists are expected to lose $17,000 of income by September 30 and since most artists responding earned between $5,000 and $24,999 this will be a loss of 98% (this accounts for 60% of the respondents) of their annual artistic income before the last three months of the year. Many individual artists expect that the recent losses could equate to almost ALL their prior year’s reported income. It’s important to note that many of these artists also work in other industries that are also imperiled by closures and a diminished economy.

The average agency loss by September 30 of this year is expected to be $122,000, a somewhat deceptive figure because of the range of agency budget sizes. Some agencies projected that their institutions would experience losses upwards of a half-million dollars or more by the end of the summer.

The Needs

The primary requests from artists and cultural agencies are emergency relief grants. While the Paycheck Protection Program loans and the extension of the loaning period has been helpful in retaining staff through this time, the field is preparing for further reductions in earned income, government grants, corporate giving and individual contributions. This scenario has put the future of these agencies at severe risk. We believe it is crucial that a fund be created to distribute relief and sustainability grants to agencies and individual artists.

The second most sought after help is no-interest loans. Currently, many government agencies have slowed or stopped payments for reimbursement and are not moving forward with new contracts. No interest loans would somewhat remedy this issue which is especially significant for the larger institutions. Providing even a percentage of funding assistance through no-interest loans could keep agencies in continuous operation and staffers employed.

Why Help the Arts Sector

Research conducted by the Americans for the Arts, the national arts agency, demonstrates that the arts have tremendous value in sustaining communities. Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity (72%); they understand that we turn to the arts in times of trouble (81%); and that the arts help us understand other cultures better (73%). Arts promote healthy communities 73% of the population feels the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in.”

Arts build social cohesion. University of Pennsylvania research demonstrates that residents’ robust participation in arts and cultural activities leads to higher civic engagement in cities, more social cohesion, increased child wellness, and lower poverty rates. This is no less true in Central New York and surrounding counties; our own research has verified many of these national indicators.

Equally important, but perhaps the most overlooked, is the arts’ stellar performance as an economic driver. The arts sector creates jobs, supports local business activity, increases tourism, and pulls in peripheral dollars through audience spending, in addition to their ticket purchase or admission fee. The arts generate needed tax revenue for local governments and the state. In fact, all of New York State’s arts and cultural industries generate $114.1 billion to the state economy, employ 462,584 people, and provide $46.7 billion in compensation, according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Next Steps & How You Can Help

In response to the current and critical need in the arts industry, we established the CNY Arts COVID-19 Impact Fund to provide emergency assistance for artists and cultural groups across seven counties in Central New York. Donate online now.

In addition, we are offering and curating statewide, regional and local COVID-19 related resources to local arts organizations such as webinars on how to produce virtual and online events, guidance on CARES, HEROES, and agency mergers, and continuing to offer technical assistance and arts promotional services to the public.

We are also currently offering mini COVID-19 Arts Relief Grants in the amount of $500 to small organizations and artists to help mitigate the financial losses they’re experiencing. We established a small GoFundMe campaign to allow individuals to support this cause. We also established an additional GoFundMe campaign for an arts education fund, which  connects students to teaching artists and provides both much-needed art lessons for gifted students and income for artists.

We will continue our work to advocate for the arts, culture and heritage sector by sharing our survey data with all levels of government, funders and other stakeholders across our region. We encourage those moved by the arts to consider taking action to support our sector, either through our current GoFundMe links or directly to your favorite arts provider.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”, said Pablo Picasso, who lived through the 1918 Pandemic. This is no less true today than it was a century ago and art in our lives is more needed than ever as we come together to grapple with this century’s pandemic.

Our thanks to the Central New York Community Foundation and The Gifford Foundation for their generous support to make this study possible.

CNY Arts provides support and assistance to individual artists and arts and cultural organizations through access to grants, capacity-building assistance, education and training, and promotional services. It serves the counties of Cortland, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego. The organization’s primary goal is to enhance a greater appreciation for the arts and cultural vibrancy of the region. Learn more at http://cnyarts.org.

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Community Needs Assessment Enhanced with ‘Data Dating’; Nearly $120,000 in New Grants Will Help Nonprofits Measure

Enhancements to a community assessment tool, designed by the Central New York Community Foundation, are making it easier for area nonprofits to analyze their programming in real-time, ‘match’ with partner organizations, and evaluate the greatest concerns of those they serve.

Community assessment is a major focus of the Community Foundation’s Performance Management Learning Community (PMLC), now entering its eighth year. PMLC uses grant dollars and peer learning to help nonprofits measure their effectiveness.

PEACE, Inc., a federally-designated Community Action Agency that works to help people become more self-sufficient, joined PMLC last year to continue becoming data-structured from within. The organization’s goal was to help staff effectively track and measure the effectiveness of its food pantries, family resource centers, and programming for youth and seniors.

“The first objective within our organization’s strategic plan is to develop a data-driven culture,” said Todd Goehle, development coordinator at PEACE, Inc. “So we identified emerging leaders across our organization who could take what they’ve learned from PMLC and make it a part of our daily philosophy.”

After a year in PMLC, PEACE, Inc. consolidated database systems, which now allows staff members to collaborate across teams and with external organizations. In addition, the agency benefited greatly from the findings of PMLC’s community needs assessment, a measurement of which life needs—such as affordable long-term housing, addiction counseling, lead poisoning support, job readiness and economic independence—are not being adequately met for those living in poverty. PMLC participants can study responses to the needs assessment by neighborhood or census tract to complete pre-and post-program evaluation.

“When we evaluated the data that we and our PMLC partners gathered, it became clear to us that we needed to double down on our food pantries,” said Goehle. “We found that there is a real need for food and personal items within some neighborhoods of the city, and we need to increase our efforts to get funding that will allow us to increase our supplies.”

This fall, the Community Foundation released a whitepaper that examined the impact that can be made if social programs addressed the nuances within the areas where they work, as PEACE is doing.

Recently, the Community Foundation introduced new online enhancements to the assessment tool, which include access to interactive, real-time results. This allows nonprofits to take their analyses one step further. Nicknamed ‘data dating,’ organizations can quickly identify other participating organizations they ‘match’ with for collaboration, such as to fulfill a client need that they do not offer. The tool also makes information about program measurement accessible by all members within an organization, from front-line staff to executive directors, without the need for extensive training.

Goehle reports that he hopes to use the new interactive features to partner with organizations that have clients reporting needs that PEACE, Inc. can help provide.

“The data that we’re accumulating doesn’t necessarily reflect the community at large,” he said. “This tool gives us opportunities, especially with live mapping, to identify locations where interventions can be made.”

This year, seven organizations received a total of $118,756 in grants to join the next PMLC class: ACR Health ($20,000); Everson Museum ($15,000); Hiscock Legal Aid Society ($20,000); Mercy Works ($20,000); Madison County Health Department ($15,200); Northside Learning Center ($14,956); and Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York ($13,600).

The Community Foundation awards PMLC grants toward data measuring efforts, which include such things as database management and statistical analysis, to help nonprofits track their efforts and look for trends. This in turn assists the organizations in identifying what is working and what’s not, leading to the development of more effective programming and funding competitiveness. Applicants agreed to participate in a year-long learning community in order to qualify for a grant.

Another six organizations are joining PMLC Prep and PMLC Pro groups to learn how to collect community assessment responses and use the new interactive tool in new and innovative ways with $5,000 grants each: Huntington Family Center; On Point for College; PEACE, Inc.; Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment; Southwest Community Center; Westcott Community Center; and Women’s Opportunity Center.

For organizations like PEACE, Inc., the PMLC collaboration is helping form new connections that will benefit the community as a whole.

“Sometimes in Syracuse, organizations tend to work in silos and there are not always a lot of opportunities to meet and exchange ideas,” Goehle said. “This provides us with an opportunity to all get to the table and examine through data how we can work through problems collectively.”

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Author of “The Color of Law” Visits Syracuse for Community Conversation

FREE Community Conversation with Author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”

The legacy of intentional, government mandated housing segregation has led to Syracuse having some of the highest rates of extreme concentrated poverty for African Americans and Hispanics in the nation. Let’s learn from our history and imagine how we can create opportunity and equity moving forward. Richard Rothstein,* an expert on this topic, will visit Syracuse on Tuesday September 17 as part of an initiative led by Legal Services of Central New York and CNY Fair Housing to discuss housing segregation in our community.

The event is free and open to the public and will feature Mr. Rothstein discussing his New York Times Bestselling book, “The Color of Law” which highlights the intentional and systematic web of laws and policy that codified housing segregation in America, including in Syracuse.  In addition to being discriminatory, this severely curtailed financial, career, and educational opportunities for African Americans and created an extreme wealth disparity between whites and African Americans that continues to widen today.

Mr. Rothstein will be joined by panelists Vincent Love (Blueprint 15), Lanessa Chaplin (NYCLU), and Sally Santangelo (CNY Fair Housing). The conversation will also include a welcome by Mayor Ben Walsh and opportunities for audience Q & A.

In preparation for this exciting free community event, this summer the Syracuse Citywide Book Club brought people throughout our region together to read and discuss Mr. Rothstein’s book: “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”.  More than 100 people are currently registered for the Syracuse Citywide Book Club, with hundreds more following on Facebook and reading the book on their own.  Individuals can sign-up at www.lscny.org/thecoloroflaw to receive exclusive content and updates.  Everyone is invited to read along with Mayor Ben Walsh and other community leaders at www.facebook.com/syrbookclub.

The 2019 Syracuse Summer Book Club and the free Community Conversation with Richard Rothstein are sponsored by Legal Services of Central New York, CNY Fair Housing, NBT Bank, and Syracuse University College of Law.  To register for updates and exclusive content visit www.lscny.org/thecoloroflaw or for more information contact wrhodes@lscny.org.

*Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute, Emeritus Senior Fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Senior Fellow at the Haas Institute at the University of California, Berkley, and author of New York Times Bestseller “The Color of Law.”

 

 

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Local Libraries Addressing the Summer Slide

Written by Janet Park, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Libraries

Janet Park, executive director of Onondaga County Public Libraries (OCPL), explains the learning loss students can experience during the summer and how OCPL is helping to address it.

Every year during summer break, Onondaga County Public Libraries (OCPL) help children avoid the summer slide. What is the summer slide exactly? Well, it’s not as fun as it sounds. It’s actually the decline in literacy and academic skills that children can experience when they are away from school.

Students who don’t engage in continued learning in the summer lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement between academic years. This can lead to a cumulative effect that is a crisis in the making. By the fifth grade, regular summer learning loss can leave students up to three years behind their peers. That is because when children aren’t reading or engaged in educational activities on a regular basis, it’s hard for them to transition back to school when summer ends. In the city of Syracuse, nearly 79% of students exhibited some level of summer learning loss upon entering a new school year in 2018.

Just like playing a musical instrument or learning how to draw, if children don’t practice regularly, their academic skills will decline. Reading just 20 minutes a day can help children avoid the summer slide and keep them on track academically!

OCPL provides a wide variety of free resources to help families stop the summer slide. During OCPL’s Summer Learning program, children and teens can sign up and earn incentives for their reading efforts, whether it be the number of books read or the total minutes they read. Participants get to choose the books they read, so summer becomes an opportunity for young minds to explore their personal interests and hobbies.

Through MyON, available for free through the New York State Library, children up to 12th grade have unlimited access to thousands of eBooks during summer break. If they prefer something more traditional, they can browse the shelves of their local library to check out books. Our children’s librarians can recommend titles for those who don’t know where to start.

Educational programs are also a part of Summer Learning, with something happening almost every day at libraries throughout the county. Many of the events explore the principles of S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Children are encouraged to ask questions and most of the events involve hands-on activity.

Children come to our libraries to enjoy our children’s spaces, access our resources and engage with programs like our summer learning initiative, but they also sometimes come hungry. During the academic year many children rely on the schools to provide them with breakfast and lunch.  On weekends, school breaks and summer vacation, these children find themselves with no place to turn to get their needed nutrition. Their hunger makes it difficult for them to do many of the simple things that we take for granted and expect from them.

That is why two of our library locations are also summer meal sites for the Syracuse City School District. Free lunch is available to school-aged children at both Beauchamp Branch Library and the Central Library each weekday from July 8 to Aug. 16.

OCPLS is committed to making learning fun over summer break and throughout the year. To learn more about this year’s Summer Learning program, including dates and times, call (315) 435-1900 or visit www.onlib.org/events/summer-learning.

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Parents Get Answers; Children Enter School Better Ready to Learn

Written by Laurie Black

Laurie Black, director of Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga, tells us how the organization introduced a service to the region that helps parents ensure their children are developing to learn.

Most new parents at one point or another wonder if their child is developing on a “normal” pace compared to other children of the same age. It is common for them to question, “Is my child on-track?”

While it is true that all children develop at their own pace, it is also true that there are stages of development that occur at certain ages across the domains of motor, communication, problem solving and social emotional development. Achieving various benchmarks of development in the early years is what we call meeting “developmental milestones.” Developmental milestones provide a general idea of the changes to expect as a child grows.  It is important for parents to know what to expect and what to look for in order to identify potential delays in development. Delays that go undetected in early years can lead to more significant developmental challenges later in life. These challenges can make it hard for children to learn in school and go on to lead productive lives.

The Need for Help Me Grow

It is estimated that 1 in 5 children are at risk for one or more developmental delays and those rates increase with high levels of poverty. Unfortunately, only about 20% of development delays are detected within the first three years of life, leaving many to turn into health, educational and achievement difficulties.

According to the CDC, early, frequent screening of young children for healthy growth and development is recommended to help identify potential problems or areas needing further evaluation. By catching developmental issues early, children can be provided with treatment or intervention more effectively, and additional developmental delays or deficits may be prevented.

Source: Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive- Compendium of Screening Measures for Young Children

In Onondaga County, 24% of children live in poverty1 and only 38% were reading at grade level by 3rd grade in 2018.2 In the city of Syracuse, those numbers are even more alarming. Here, approximately 50% of children live in poverty,3 fewer than 20% enter kindergarten assessing as “ready” in the literacy domain4 and by third grade only 20% are reading on grade level.5 A strong educational foundation between pre-kindergarten and third grade correlates to school success, high graduation rates and low instances of juvenile crime and teen pregnancy.

Given our community’s high rates of poverty, it is likely that even greater levels than one in five children are experiencing developmental delays and would benefit from formal interventions or supports in the first five years of life.

That is why Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga brought Help Me Grow to Onondaga County.

Help Me Grow – Part of The Solution for Optimal Child Development

Help Me Grow (HMG) Onondaga officially launched in January 2019 with funding support from the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York and in partnership with 2-1-1 CNY.  Callers can ask to speak with the Help Me Grow Care Coordinator to get answers to any of their child development questions. Parents and caregivers can ask questions about parenting, child behavior, child development or the location of services that exist within the community. At Help Me Grow Onondaga, we like to say “no question is too big or too small.”“Help Me Grow” is an evidence-based national model designed to increase the understanding of child development and improve rates of screening and timely linkage to services for young children and their families. Help Me Grow is being implemented in over 100 communities in over 30 states due to its ability to effectively link families to an array of early supports that promote optimal child development.

Parents can also access free developmental screening questionnaires on the Help Me Grow website at: http://www.helpmegrowny.org. We encourage all parents, whether they are concerned about their child’s development or they think all things are developing on track, to complete the questionnaires so that they can monitor their child’s development over the first five years of life.  If a child was not meeting their milestones for their age, a parent would be encouraged to talk with their child’s doctor and Help Me Grow would work with that parent to explore resources available to them in the community and share some tips for supporting their child’s development in the home.

Since we launched in January, we have had many parents call us at 2-1-1 concerned about their child’s development.  Many parents need help navigating the diverse and sometimes confusing array of services available. The overarching goal of Help Me Grow is to effectively link families to services that meet the child’s and the family’s needs.

Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in fostering an environment in which children are able to thrive, eventually developing into healthy adults. Help Me Grow Onondaga is designed to support parents in their role. Our goal is to inform and empower all parents with the knowledge they need to best support the optimal development of all children in Onondaga County. If parents have any concerns or questions, we hope that they will reach out to us by calling 2-1-1 and asking for Help Me Grow.

By catching development delays early, Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga is ensuring that our region’s children are entering school ready and able to learn. And with a strong education, our future citizens and workforce can become economically stronger and more civically engaged, which benefits all of us.

 

More Information

Parents of children birth to five are encouraged to explore the following free resources:

  • The Learn the Signs. Act Early Milestones Moments booklets and the CDC Milestones Tracker App included in the Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! Resources support providers and families in developmental monitoring. The Milestones Moments booklets describe developmental milestones from 2 months to 5 years in the areas of social/emotional, language/communication, and cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving) development, and provide suggested activities to support children’s development, as well as information on when to act early talk to the child’s doctors about concerns.
  • The CDC Milestones Tracker App The new app offers interactive milestone checklists for children ages 2 months through 5 years, illustrated with photos and videos, as well as tips and activities to help children learn and grow, information on when to act early and talk with a doctor about developmental delays, and a personalized milestone summary that can be easily shared with the doctor and other care providers.

Source: Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive

Source: Center for Disease Control –  www.cdc.gov/ActEarly

Sources

  1. US Census, American Community Survey, 2017
  2. New York State Education Department, New York State Report Card, 2018
  3. US Census, American Community Survey, 2017
  4. Syracuse City School District, STAR Assessment, 2018
  5. New York State Education Department, New York State Report Card, 2018

 

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