by Margaret Osborne and Kiki Sideris
Nonprofit organizations on Long Island are struggling to retain employees in the face of government underfunding and rising costs of living. But Long Island Cares, a hunger assistance organization, has proposed to raise salaries to entice employees to stay.
Long Island Cares CEO Paule Pachter has proposed salary increases between 2.5 and 3.5 percent for the company’s 49 employees for 2019. The highest salary hike will go to employees earning less than $38,000 a year.
“We really haven’t had many challenges in attracting good employees,” Pachter said. “What I want to make sure is that we retain them, and in order to do that, they have to be able to earn a good living wage.” Long Island Cares is one of few nonprofits on Long Island to offer pay increases as an incentive to keep employees.
The company receives $3.2 of their $7.5 million annual budget from government contracts with New York State, Suffolk County, Nassau County and the US Department of Agriculture, Pachter said. The rest comes from donations and fundraising.
The nonprofit workforce on Long Island has “historically been paid low salaries” because of government underfunding, Pachter added.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that a family of two adults and two children in the Nassau/Suffolk area would need to earn a combined $139,545 per year to live comfortably. However, according to the New York State Comptroller’s Office, wages for nonprofit workers across the state tally up to an annual average of $47,700 per employee as of 2016.
According to Pachter, many food insecure families–those who lack reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable and nutritious food–on Long Island live off of $30,000 to $60,000 a year, meaning nonprofit employees could earn as much as the people they service.
“I have great concerns that if not for the jobs, many of the people we employ would be going to the pantries,” Pachter said.
Long Island Cares runs The Harry Chapin Food Bank in Hauppauge, which teams up with over 590 agencies that provide food and supplies to food insecure families.
“Without them [Long Island Cares], we wouldn’t have a food pantry,” a worker for St. Cuthbert’s food pantry in Selden, Susan Delgado, said. “You’d have a lot of hungry people, a lot of hungry children, people without food and coats.”
Long Island Cares hosts food drives at grocery stores, where community members can make donations. Chef and co-owner at Cheddie’s Cheesecakes, Nigel Cheddie, said his company has donated about $3,000 worth of food to Long Island Cares every year for the last three years.
“When you donate food to a place like Long Island Cares, you know that that food is going directly to people in the immediate area,” Cheddie said.
Long Island Cares has programs throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties, including Huntington, where Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci is trying to help keep not-for-profit organizations running.
“They [nonprofits] often fill the gaps in providing important community services that our various levels of government may not have the resources to offer,” Lupinacci said in an e-mail.
One of Lupinacci’s initiatives is to streamline the permit process, which is required for organizations to set up fundraisers and other events, and fast-track approval from four to eight weeks to the same day.
In the meantime, Pachter has high hopes that the Long Island Cares Board of Directors will accept his proposal.
“I think it will go through because I think the Board of Directors of Long Island Cares understand the need to pay people fairly,” Pachter said. “The most important aspect that we have at Long Island Cares is our staff.”