Testimony by Nathalie-Pierre Louis of our Resource Center to NY City Council

Thank you to Chair Ayala and the members of the committee for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing. My name is Nathalie Pierre-Louis, and I am the Assistant Program Director at the Resource Center, a program of Goddard Riverside. Goddard is a Settlement House working with New Yorkers from early childhood through older adulthood to strive toward a fair and just society where all people can make choices that lead to better lives for themselves and their families. 

Our Resource Center connects people to the services they need, including food stamps, legal assistance and health care. We provide benefits screening, financial counseling, legal consultation, and support services. A significant portion of our funding to provide these essential services comes from the NYC Benefits program, administered by the Department of Social Services. 

I ask that the Council please prioritize preserving the NYC Benefits program at its current level of approximately $10 million funding 36 providers who are spread across the city and have strong connections to their local communities. We are concerned about any loss of funding the 36 CBOs will receive compared to year one, which would hurt our ability to serve the community but and to keep our staff. 

I have been working at the Resource Center for 5 years. Since the pandemic, the complexity of cases that we have been handling has increased. On a daily basis, we see New Yorkers suffering from food insecurity, housing instability, and loss of income, all while facing the impact of rampant inflation. 

Since becoming an NYC Benefits grantee last year, we have served a total of 472 individuals, submitted 301 applications for benefits on their behalf, managed 1017 cases including SNAP, rent freeze applications, one shot deals for arrears, social security, and Medicaid benefits, to name a few. We advocated directly to providers and government agencies on behalf of 122 individuals to assist in moving their applications forward. 

I would like to share a few stories that particularly demonstrate the value of the intensive support the Resource Center can provide, in partnership with DSS/HRA and our technical assistance from Public Health Solutions (PHS): 

  1. With the help of our PHS/HRA technical assistance and HRA workers, we were able to advocate for the delivery of a new SNAP card to a homebound female older adult living in East Harlem. It can be very difficult to get new SNAP cards for homebound individuals. 
  2. A female Pakistani client from the Bronx, who has a disabled adult son, received help with a record number of 6 applications for benefits for one household. The client was recertified for reduced fare MetroCard and Access-a-Ride for her son, ACP internet, and NYCHA public housing section 8. She successfully applied for OTC Medicaid benefits and reclaimed $760 in stolen food stamps. The Resource Center staff’s expertise helped to identify and secure the full range of benefits that her household qualified for. 
  3. We assisted a single mother, who had been living in a shelter for 7 years with her 7-year-old son, to move into a new home at Savoy Park in Harlem. We advocated on her behalf to HRA so her apartment could pass inspection and CITYFHEPS voucher checks could be cut to pay the landlord. This would not have been possible without the NYC Benefits program. 

We need your help to this program fully funded and assisting New Yorkers. Thank you for your attention to this issue, and we hope you will prioritize this critical assistance program in the Fiscal Year 25 budget.