COVID-19 Series: Alumni in Action Video 2

Welcome to the COVID 19 series NYU Wagner alumni in action my name is Gordon Campbell and i’m a professor of practice at NYU Wagner the genesis for this series is to highlight those NYU Wagner Alums who are on the front lines responding to COVID-19. tonight’s focus is a social services response to COVID-19 and i’m pleased to be joined by four distinguished alums the format for this evening is that i’ll have a conversation with each of the four panelists followed by a group discussion with the panelists and then we want to turn to you the audience and if you have a question along the way just click on the Q&A icon at the bottom of your screen and type in a question and we’ll try to get to as many questions as possible but before we turn to the panelists let’s look at the statistics and these are statistics as of yesterday October 21st globally there were 41,313,000 cases of COVID globally the deaths were one 1,132,000 United States cases of COVID 8,249,000 U.S deaths 220,362 and right here in New York City the number of COVID cases were 257,028 and the number of deaths were 23,949 in addition 14 percent of New york City residents are currently unemployed that’s one in seven or 538,000 plus New Yorkers and yet a year ago the unemployment rate was only 3.7 percent so let’s start with our first panelist Monsignor Kevin Sullivan Catholic Charities is a Federation of more than 90 agencies that provide services that feed the hungry strengthen families along with integrating immigrants and refugees throughout the New York metropolitan area in addition to coordinating the human services disaster response Monsignor Sullivan represents Catholic Charities agencies in public discussions and issues such as immigration job development housing homeless services and the like Kevin welcome Gordon thank you so much so Kevin you played a big role in previous disaster responses including 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy now adding to your experience with COVID-19 how are all these crises similar and how are they different so so Gordon i guess the first thing you’re saying is saying that i’m old because i was around for all of those those things uh but you know where we begin with everything Gordon the commonality there’s always tragic human pain death loss injuries so every disaster has that type of commonality and as usual in those disasters it’s always the poor the most vulnerable that suffer the most in those situations so that’s a basic commonality but the other thing i would say is if we move beyond that is they’re all unexpected and they’re all taking us by surprise even the natural ones where you have a weather forecast that might give you a couple of days warning but you never know until they happen and so as a result human service agencies are always playing catch-up you’re always dependent upon your current existing infrastructure and capacity and your deep you’re you’re responding in the first days and weeks until you can build additional and disaster specific capacity so you take whatever resources you have you shift them around you have to make timely decisions those are the things that are common to every disaster that that i’ve experienced but then if you go to the dissimilarities they’re so very different from whether it be the the source of why they happened the impact and the needed response so so 9/11 was a geopolitical terrorist attack but it targeted a very very specific uh target immediately deadly impact for 3,000 individuals superstorm Sandy was a natural disaster that struck hundreds of miles of the coast of New York and New Jersey um much less loss of life but yet the property damage

was huge throughout that area uh and then you come to our current uh COVID-19 pandemic um 10 times the number of lives as you know 9/11 not in an instant but over a six-month period and it’s not ended and the job loss with you alluded to the infection so very very different and in this nobody in the in nobody is left out because even depending on how you act you got to decide are you wearing a mask you’re not wearing a mask nobody in the whole New York area the country be it the world is left out so those are the differences uh among those three disasters that that i’ve experienced you know Kevin that was very helpful in terms of the commonality the death the despair all unexpected and non-profits playing catch-up catching playing catch-up but this is a similarity and i think you’re absolutely right no one is left out literally around the world in terms of coving so you’ve seen and we’ve seen food insecurity nearly doubling since the start of COVID with your food distribution initiatives like pop-up pantries what have you had to do differently and how did you identify and prioritize the areas that needed it most okay so let me let me say a couple of things i mean one of the things that most emergency supplemental food programs have been doing for the past decade in order to make sure that we kind of try to respect the dignity of those who were helping we kind of went to what they call a client choice food pantry in other words we set up our food pantries in like a little grocery store where those who were coming and needed food could come in and they could take off the shelves the items that they they wanted we felt that i think most people felt it respected their dignity well can’t do that now so immediately what we had been moving working uh on it for 10 years we now had to go back to repacking bags put tables outside and so people had grab and go types of of meals you know we provided uh two and a half times the number of meals we would ordinarily have done so that that was kind of one example of that we’ve all spoken about the remote learning that people have done well we’ve moved to remote counseling remote telemental health to remote preventive services so those were a lot of the changes we did and on the other hand uh for some of the services and programs we had that were residential for special needs populations those with um with emotional with physical uh challenges those we couldn’t change very much except we made through sure that our staff had a PPE that we reduced staff not below a safe level but to a level in which we could uh protect not only the lives of those we were serving but those who were doing the serving so those were some of the changes that we had to make very very quickly i was going to say all in a very short period of time and Kevin similar to food distribution services ongoing hallmark of Catholic Charities and another you’re so proud of continues to be integrating immigrants and refugees how has this changed during COVID given increased barriers to mobility primarily emanating from the federal government sadly Gordon um when we’re having this uh this conversation we just again learned in the past day or so the incredible um impact that the incompetent and the disastrous and the inhumane policies of this you administration are having now they’re admitting when they’re forced to in court that they can’t find over 500 parents of a problem that they caused by taking those parents away i use that because it’s such a poignant ongoing example of the volatility that that our current federal immigration protocols and procedures have that we have been having to respond to in the pandemic again the ongoing issue is because we fail to have comprehensive immigration reform that we have over 10 million people who don’t have the right documents and so because of

the divisiveness in our country we kind of use almost always say well if it’s federal dollars you can’t help somebody who needs help if if they are without the right right document Fortunately, we had some very very generous new yorkers who said to Catholic Charities and others hey wait a minute that’s unfair these are our neighbors these are our neighbors who are working these are neighbors who are paying taxes into our economy they’re keeping us going and so we at Catholic Charities alone other groups do we did what we usually don’t do we did over a four million dollar cash assistance program particularly targeted to immigrants and refugees who were left out of all the other programs that that are there um it is a disaster the current situation and quite frankly it’s only in my opinion but it’s my opinion what’s being done now in immigration policy is using the excuse of pseudo public health concerns and there are legitimate ones but to do blanket policies which are betraying our American tradition of welcoming immigrants and being a place where refugees can come to seek help from persecution yes there are legitimate public health concerns that we have to care about we can’t use this pandemic as an excuse to keep out all immigrants or refugees and Kevin your point without social service agencies without nonprofits so many more immigrants and refugees would go unassisted and i also remember you sharing with me that there weren’t a lot of questions asked when you were distributing the the dollars you when a family presented themselves the assumption and rightly so was there’s a need for that particular family so thank you very much so our next panelist is Jennifer Jones Austin FPWA is an anti-poverty policy and advocacy organization committed to economic opportunity and upward mobility for low income income communities reaching over 1.5 million people in New York each year as CEO and Executive Director Jennifer has led significant changes in social policy and law in New York to strengthen empower the disenfranchised and marginalized Jennifer welcome thank you good to be here with you and with my fellow alums and friends absolutely absolutely so Jennifer you had extensive experience with non-profits in helping traditionally underserved communities how have you seen the organizational goals and the organizational operations of non-profits shift over the past few months in light of COVID well the first thing i’m going to tell you is that when you read my introduction and you mentioned that the organizations with which we work serve and support more than 1.5 million New Yorkers i thought to myself that number surely is significantly higher today because of COVID because what i’ve seen is that the nonprofits across the City of New York those who are partnered with FPWA Catholic Charities U&H UJA and other institutions are in or or working by themselves are all trying to do as much as they can in this moment these are the organizations that long before COVID were serving the people who were most challenged in New York City and the people who were most challenged in New York City became all the more challenged because of coding so these organizations child welfare organizations found themselves delivering food supports these organizations may have been providing youth services and all of a sudden we’re also doing meals and trying to figure out how to get emergency rental assistance to families of young persons they’re supporting yeah we saw that organizations that were engaged in the work of elderly supports or child care we’re now also centering on mental health supports for the individuals and the families that they serve so what we have seen a lot of is people expanding their portfolio of service when and however they could to be responsive to the need we saw a lot of emphasis being placed on the needs of the staff themselves so all of a sudden organizations were appreciating that their staff were challenged how they got to work or challenged when it came to you know providing for PPE needs as Monsignor Sullivan spoke to but also experiencing first-hand trauma the trauma themselves of being essential workers

and having to you know go out into the world and provide services to people in need and putting themselves at risk and fearing that they were bringing the the the virus home to their their families so we’ve seen non-profit human service agencies focus on trauma trauma of clients but also trauma of their staff persons and then this overall challenge of having to do more with less as the government began cutting back but this need being ever growing how are they going to manage that a lot of organizations engaging in advocacy and then a lot of them beginning to think about how to plan beyond COVID appreciating all the challenges that present now and in the weeks and months to come yeah so Jennifer the the social service organizations that you work with and the others that you mentioned have to continue to do the work they were doing but all this additional work and at the same time responding to the challenges and needs that staff are facing in a realistic and often time very scary way so jennifer nearly one in five New Yorkers live in poverty the majority of whom are from communities of color you’ve been an advocate for developing race-conscious policies to combat these disparities and how has the public crisis impacted development of these policies has it helped or has it hurt so um you know me Gordon the eternal optimist so i am i am kind of hanging on the side of it’s going to help and why is it going to help when we begin to see black and brown persons suffering disproportionately from COVID people were all aghast like how is this happening why is the infection rate higher why are they down why are black and brown persons dying at disproportionate rates and very quickly we begin hearing the social scientists and the health practitioners talk about co-morbidities speak about the social determinants of health how poverty is a stressor how um education and the lack of quality education puts black and brown persons at a disadvantage how low wages challenge people and lack of access to jobs with fair benefits that allow for your paid sick leave we you know we learned about lack of quality access to quality health care and how all of these are social determinants of health there’s this uh line that is often said in the black community that when uh when America catches a cold we know that blacks catch pneumonia right and COVID brought that to bear and it helped us to look at all of the systemic racial disparities uh all of the racist policies and and and and laws that have permeated our society for so long that have kept black and brown persons at a disadvantage women and you know and transgender persons at a disadvantage and so what i’m hoping and believing and trusting is that COVID is putting a spotlight on these issues and it’s going to allow us to just center on racial inequity in the form of housing health care education economic inequity and allow us to just kind of plow on through and say we’ve got to deal with all of these issues oh Jennifer you always have been a glass half-full kind of person which i appreciate and speaking of stressors you’re absolutely right COVID is just one more stressor but to your point hopefully that could really that spotlight can be that much broader and brighter so Jennifer COVID has significantly impacted non-profits in their work with the communities families and individuals they serve as well as financially and you talked about the government and given all these challenges has the city and state stepped up to the plate well my uh my co-panelists uh like me would have had a lot to say about this very early on in COVID uh guidance was slow to come when non-profits were trying to figure out whether you know we were essential services and who in our organizations were considered essential providers and would be provided with PPE equipment and access to basic supports to do the jobs would be provided with child care if they had to come to work guidance was slow to come from the city in the state then we saw that government when they began seeing that they would you know come short on uh tax levy dollars began uh slashing budgets and cutting critical non-mandated services but services that are needed for vulnerable individuals and families

what we found is that we’ve had to fight for every single need in this moment it’s not to say the government is not sympathetic but you know we get that they’re dealing with their own challenges but we’ve had to fight for every dollar because government itself has been fighting to figure out where they’re going to get the resources that they need to pick up the trash uh to pay the union contracts but you can’t balance the budget on the backs of poor people so that has been our fight you know we’ve been uh fighting at the federal level for economic stimulus for the next cares act to come on board to give people what they need direct aid to local governments municipalities we’ve been fighting at the state for long-term borrowing and we’ve been fighting with the city to not keep cutting us um it’s not to say that they are not well uh are concerned or interested in the well-being of the non-profits and the people for whom they care but we’re in this real big battle where when they need money they first go to that which is not mandated and they cut cut cut but when they need services they look to the nonprofit community they expect the nonprofit community to continue to do that keep doing more with less and less and less right and then your point it’s exacerbated even more by the lack of federal dollars flowing in terms of the CARES Act to the state and local municipalities which it makes it even worse right and getting caught up in the politics right right you know it’s like you know the the state doesn’t want to look at long-term borrowing for the city to close the budget gap uh the deficit because if they do then maybe they’ll put the they’ll get they’ll take the federal government off the hook for the economic stimulus or the city and the state are battling as they have been battling on a variety of issues uh you know our elected leaders and so then we get caught up in all this and who suffers the people who are already suffering absolutely Jennifer thank you and our next panelist is Alan Van Capelle Educational Alliance offers high quality multi-generational programs and services to that in diverse communities in lower Manhattan helping to enhance their well-being and socio-economic opportunities as President and CEO Allen leads their network of community centers offering social educational cultural and recreational services programs and events Alan welcome thanks Gordon it’s great to be here great to have you so Alan you have a strong background in coalition building that significantly influenced the passage of legislation allowing same-sex marriage in New York how has COVID changed the nature of this process both the policies themselves and informing connections between organizations you know it’s it’s interesting i keep thinking about um about the quotation from E.B. White you know New York is to the nation what the church spire is to the village the visible symbol of aspiration and hope and that the white plume is saying that the way is up and i think how New Yorkers specifically the non-profit community even business leaders philanthropists have stepped up in this moment has been a real example for the rest of the country i think New York has done so much of this right and i think this is all about and for not for profit figuring out who can be helpful and it’s all about relationships um and so m partnerships so we know that there were one and a half million hungry New Yorkers pre-covered and now there are three million hungry New Yorkers there are nine million people in New York which means one-third of all New Yorkers are experiencing food insecurity so we have to re-imagine how we are getting food to folks so we partnered with rethink food and Sean Donovan and philanthropy and we and Doordash and we managed to get money to open up shuttered restaurants on the lower East Side we signed up hundreds of families to a special Doordash app where at any moment when they were hungry they can go on to an app see a restaurant they’re familiar with choose the menu items that they wanted and have it delivered to their door for free this moment about partnerships and tri-sector approach allows for a lot of innovation and this was piloted here on the lower east side in Austin and Washington DC we found it really effective and are now trying to figure out how fema can make it part of their permanent funding in order to help the newly food insecure we knew that the learning gap uh for kids growing up in low-income households during

virtual learning it was going to grow by 15 to 20 percent and so again with partnerships with the corporate sector and philanthropy we managed to get thousands of tablets wi-fi hot spots and supplies into the homes of the kids who were needed in their backpacks so that those kids would have a better chance of being successful in virtual learning another statistic was that for every one percent increase in unemployment addiction goes up three and a half percent so we went into the public housing complexes across the treet on Avenue D from our Center for Recovery and Wellness and recruited public housing residents to become peer navigators and we trained them and paid them 500 for the training and then they became Evangelists for our organization and brought people who were triggered uh back into addiction into our site and so this is really all about partnerships and frankly you know the work that we’ve done with UJA and others we’ve distributed 450,000 dollars on the lower East Side uh mostly to restaurant workers and to immigrants who did not have the documentation necessary uh to get unemployment uh so that they can have checks to make ends meet um and you know so i think this is really a lot about partnerships it’s um and relationships no absolutely i mean i think your point about relationships and partnerships makes so much sense and also a very entrepreneurial spirit which one would not always think is possible with a very large organization such as educational lines Alan your team was very proactive in some of this you referenced with the community response even before official lockdown orders were issued how did you know how to respond so early in determining what your community would need i think we sort of figured it out i mean in the immediate response i think like Jennifer had said you know the city was really nowhere in giving guidance right and so we basically said we’re not you know when the school day closes when it snows we always say our programs will be open if the schools are open and when the schools are shut we’ll shut and it’s our guidelines so everybody says you know you follow the city COVID came we said we’re not following the city we became the first organization to stop congregate meal service for older adults even after the city said you have to continue serving older adults we said turn on CNN the CDC is saying they can’t be in groups together anymore and so we created grab-and-go meals and then wrote this lengthy letter to the to the Department for the Aging which then became the model for how senior centers were going to act in this moment moving on from that though our research and evaluation team really were very smart i mean i’m the least smart guy in our entire organization our research and evaluation folks said look this is going to go on for a while we need to put a survey in the field every month and every month we have to figure out what our people are going to need because that’s going to change if you only ask them once what they need in month one will change in month two so for as an example people were not experiencing food insecurity in one month seniors were not reporting that they were lonely in one month uh people were not needing cash support in one month that all began to change in months two three and four and we have mapped this out so if we do god forbid get a second wave um here in New York City we have some indicators to tell us like what we should expect people are going to need and when they’re going to need them i think the idea of a survey is so interested in knowing too that the needs are going to change and they have changed over time and Gordon and also for the staff right we’ve been polling the staff too because the reality is that you know staff did not need mental health supports in month one but they they a lot of them need mental health supports right now because you’re dealing with this crisis yeah i guess the question is what was the transition like just given the suddenness of COVID when it’s all strung upon us even though it was known many couple months before from both a customer your client perspective as well as from a staff perspective yeah you know i love Elizabeth Ann Seton and she has this uh Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton a New Yorker uh and has this great quotation that cheerfulness prepares the glorious mind for the noblest acts and we were a very happy staff even in the middle of this crisis we think you know in the Bao Shem Tov and Judaism said to serve god without joy is to lead a very gloomy existence

and there wasn’t a single moment where i think we weren’t you know joyful in how we did our work um whether it was calls to seniors or making the plans there was an energy and a dynamic spirit it wasn’t this gloom and doom we were all sort of in this together and i think that’s the secret sauce for our organization is that we managed to keep up our spirits to lift each other up and to see each other first in humanity and it sounds kind of touchy feely for a non-profit that that that’s sort of the secret sauce but i have to say you know as someone who’s done a lot of legislative victory of like legislative life there are a lot more defeats than there are victories and if you don’t look for the small victories in every day then you’re going to get defeated pretty quickly and so i think we began an organizational practice of trying to find the victories even the small ones in every single day and using that as the fuel to keep us going to the next one no your point about in it together i know culture organizational culture is something very near and dear to your heart Allen thank you so our uh final panelist is Erasma Beras-Monticciolo Power of Two is a home visiting organization that uses evidence-based parent coaching techniques to mitigate the negative impact of adversity and trauma between parents and children with Power of Two Erasma created partnerships with policy makers community-based organizations and social change groups to build support for programs serving low-income populations in New York City welcome Erasma thank you so much Gordon happy to be here glad you’re here can you talk about how covet 19 has exacerbated pre-existing disparities in marginalized communities how did COVID-19 makes access to service particularly mental health services more challenging yeah so throughout our COVID-19 response you know we have really focused on healing from what we consider to be a triple pandemic for black indigenous and people of color and i’m talking about a race pandemic a health pandemic and an economic pandemic and the causes and effects of this triple dynamic are intertwined and they manifest themselves in systemically racist policies and practices such as inadequate resource allocations to health services reaching predominantly communities of color and as we saw in a study that appeared in the journal of the American medical association not too long ago for example that the federal government systematically short changed communities with large black populations in the distribution of billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid which were all meant to help hospitals struggling to manage the effects of the pandemic so the government allocated large chunks of a 175 billion relief package based on hospital revenue instead of the numbers of COVID-19 cases and other health data and so this occurs in a context of overall poor quality care provision to the communities of color with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for example indicating that black and latinx people receive poor care on 40 percent of the department’s care quality measures so black indigenous and people of color face significant barriers to accessing high quality preventive services already you know that would help promote long-term health and social emotional well-being well-being which really leads to higher risk of heart disease obesity depression and so much more and as we know these higher rates of pre-existing conditions lead to higher rates of COVID infection and death and so i saw all of this play out in Brownsville Brooklyn for example where pre-COVID we were seeing that you know the the average annual city right rate of psychiatric hospitalizations was approximately 600 compared to 1900 psychiatric hospitalization in Brownsville that is triple the city-wide rate and even now during the pandemic and with the increased attention on and advocacy for mental health services the digital divide has made it increasingly even more difficult for community access services that have predominantly moved online so individuals without equipment or access to broadband can’t really access a host smartphone for example doesn’t mean that they have the technology

literacy to really access mental health and so these technology barriers compound with barriers that already exist such as geographical accessibility and affordability and make it extremely difficult for communities of color to access mental health services you’re right it triple pandemic race health economics the causes are so intertwined and it plays itself out in so many fronts and more often than not not in a good way so with your focus of power exactly and that go ahead no i was going to say that um you know the circumstances in which we we’ve all been living is already creating a higher demand for mental health care right and unfortunately our health care system is just ill-prepared to respond to it to respond to that arrest but with your focus on resilience and low-income communities what does that look like in the times of covert what new challenges and focus areas has it presented for your organization yeah so you know our work is deeply rooted as you know in healing and healing can only really happen if you have healthy relationships and access to social networks and so those relationships really do provide a reprieve from the systems that oppress people of color and so when COVID struck there was no reprieve many of us as you know as we all experienced were isolated from loved ones and friends and we were constantly reminded of our trauma and pain on television and in the news with images of George Floyd’s death Ahmaud Aubery Elijah McClain and countless others and the continued brutalization of black and brown bodies by police um as well as the hundreds of thousands of others that die from COVID and so with our connections to the daily realities of the communities that we serve we were acutely aware of the devastating impact that the pandemic would have on our families and our communities physical and mental well-being and so it was incredibly critical for us um in the earlier stages of our cover response to ensure the continuity of our parent coaching program to alleviate the growing stress and anxiety the parents and children were experiencing as well as alleviating some of the financial burdens in the immediate term as well as promoting longer term healing so our first priority was to really you know acknowledge our shared humanity we’re all living through this triple pandemic together and it’s important to recognize that families minds were overwhelmed by all of the misinformation out there about COVID and were often worried about things that they rarely had to worry about before like for example you know where to buy toilet paper during that shortage um or babies essentials so we have to really focus on raising funds to provide all of our families with three-month supplies of diapers and wipes and formula and cleaning supplies as well as reusable masks and all of this is in parallel with our efforts to provide immediate relief to families we have also focused on working with stakeholders to amplify the community voices through broader social justice movements so in partnership for example with the Ocean Hill Brownsville Community District 16 community stakeholder in to map out community resources um assess local needs engage in effective communications about community health and ultimately build lasting infrastructure for ensuring that all community residents are really able to access resources and support so healing Power of Two has always been important but even more so in the age of of COVID absolutely Power of Two does a lot of work as you pointed out in family-based services given that schooling and child care are so different and so disruptive this year have you had to adjust your work to accommodate the current and ever-changing circumstances yes this has been an incredibly challenging time for um for our families especially families that have multiple children in their homes some of whom are toddler but also school-age children and so really trying to um adapt our programming in a way that is incredibly inclusive and that is also like i said before humanizing the interaction so making sure that there’s flexibility in our delivery model that allows for parents to um to share their frustration with the education system to share the why they have opted out of doing in-person schooling for their children and have opted into remote learning really understanding the context in which you know they’re living um they’re dealing with so much already and like i mentioned before with so little reprieve and so thinking about you know that context how do we connect them to the services that they need

how do we ensure that we’re providing the guidance that they’re not receiving necessarily from the Department of Education around how to navigate technology to support your children how to navigate you know accessing services online but also we have to do the same framework and or framing for our team so really understanding the challenges that our team is also experiencing so similar to what Allen was saying earlier making sure that we’re providing opportunities for them to access child care making sure that we’re accommodating their schedules to allow family members to participate in our programming but also allow our team to be able to care for their children while also providing the support for families and accommodating the the larger family as part of our service delivery model so i mean i really like the fact that you were really empowering your uh clients your families to share their frustrations and so i’m challenging so i once again i remind remind the audience if you have a question just click on the question and answer icon at the bottom of your screen and type in your question but now i’ve got a question for all of our panelists throughout the course of the pandemic how did you balance your response in deciding whether to radically shift gears pivot your work or stay the course radically shift gears pivot your work or shift the course so Jennifer we’re going to start with you followed by Allen Erasma and Kevin Jennifer okay so here’s the deal i’m going to make you all laugh this is what you call going with the moment the power in my house just went out so i had to grab my ipad and come outdoors to be with you the question is oh did you hear the question no i was trying to get situated so i could see you would be and beyond okay let me so throughout the course of the pandemic how did you balance your response in deciding whether to radically shift gears pivot your work or stay the course so um as as as some on the call know some on this event note i’m uh always kind of forward thinking person and appreciating that you’ve got to be kind of two and three or four five six steps ahead and so what we did was at FPWA we centered on the immediate needs but we began looking at what the potential budgetary challenges would be not just for our organization but for human service organizations across the city so what we did was we sought to do uh something that you’ve taught me Gordon how to do while planning how to be in the moment be responsive to the challenges that are presenting in the moment but always be thinking about what the challenges might bring down the line so it’s really been a process of looking ahead an example for you would be we immediately begin looking at our revenues and our expenses not just in the moment but what that might look like in march uh if we were to lose revenue in certain places and then how did we need to adjust our budget accordingly and now we’re doing the same thing for 21 and for 22 so that that the importance of responding to the needs in the moment but also looking forward to what is within your control and what is not in planning accordingly so yes the here and now and uh looking ahead thank you Alan yeah i think the first thing that we did was you know where could we have impact in this moment um so the challenges that i identified before and then said that is what we should be doing and let’s not get into a new business that we know nothing about let’s do what we know how to do well and double down on it and then the other thing we did was we said let’s just take a look at our organizational structure right now because the organizational structure we anticipated and we were right that our budget would go from 50 million a year to 36 million a year and that we needed to restructure internally and so we merged two of our community centers together we changed reporting lines and we rethought uh how we would get our work done and finally you know i had a um my dad grew up in world war II and uh early on in the pandemic my father said you know alan this is a lot like a war you have no idea what day it’s going to end on and when it ends things don’t go back exactly like they were the day the war started because all of us will change in some way and i tell that story to us here but i also said it to our staff to say

we just have to be mindful and listen to the communities that we serve because they are changing every week because of this pandemic and at the end of this we are going to have to build a new social infrastructure new programs to meet where they are um and and i and i offer that up because i think if we just build back exactly like what we had before this pandemic we’re going to be missing out on on helping a lot of New Yorkers who really need us so not new frontiers but building on what educational alliance does well and then not just going back to the same old but what should be the new services and offerings going forward Erasma sure i mean for us it was it was incredibly clear from the start that we needed to really prioritize our communities and our team um to ensure their health and well-being so we made this shift pretty immediately to work from home for all team members and developed and implemented in partnership with the University of Delaware who they’re the developers of the ABC model a virtual tele-ABC model that would allow us to shift to serving or providing the remote tele-ABC delivery and so but we knew that in order to do that we really have to have to understand the the digital divide better you know we all knew that knew it in the abstract but won’t show what that really meant in reality and so we conducted a tech assessment with both our team and our families in the different communities that we’re serving to really fully understand to to the the depth of the um the digital divide and what we found was that 34 percent of the families in Brownsville for example lacked access to technology meaning technology of technological equipment but also to broadband and we saw that the same thing um in in the South Bronx with with the 40 percent of the families also reporting a lot of access to technology into broadband and so our next goal was to identify ways to provide those those equipment to families so that they would be able to connect not only to our programming so that we can provide them with support during the pandemic but also because we knew that a lot of programming was shifting online so if you wanted to apply for you know unemployment insurance most of the time you would have to do that online if you wanted to do to have access to doctors you would have to do that online because they were not seeing people in person and so really focusing on partnering with the board to create a strategy for fundraising um to help us raise enough funds and resources so that we could provide this technology technological equipment for our families and also making it available for our team then in addition to that was creating you know the actual mechanism by which to deliver all of these materials to the families then creating user guides so that they fully understand how to navigate the technology that they had not been familiar with and really supporting them through that entire process additionally really focusing on on our team internally so developing the infrastructure to support our team team who were already you know are already from the community themselves that we’re serving and so they too were experiencing a lot of trauma and secondary trauma because they’re supporting you know lots of families and so making sure that we were um creating the uh the internal income infrastructure that would allow us to provide stipends for um for self-care opportunities for them to you know connect with subscription to uh on on um excuse me unwinding anxiety uh and also opportunities for them to come together in in a peer support way and so was really trying to do the programmatic work by also looking at our finances and really budgeting and planning not only for you know what we thought was going to be a seven month long issue has become even longer term so really thinking forward uh about what to do over the next two to three years yes to really figure out how to work around the digital divide Kevin Gordon i i think you you asked us to say well what do we do we do new stuff or continue adapt or whatever the answer is all the above i mean and again if you’re dealing with more than a single program uh you’ve got to do it all and there’s not the same answer for everything

the other thing is and i’ve i’ve used this this many many times is i’m sorry but you sometimes have to throw precedent out the window some of my staff was not too happy about it because they wanted to know what the precedent was or what the policy was and this is going back to 9/11. in that i used to say to people oh here’s our new policy any time that two planes hit a building within 12 minutes of each other this is the policy that we will use you need to come up with with concrete community-based specific responses to what the needs are in that time and you may not have a policy that lasts forever but you got to respond in that time so you’ve got to do new things we in the nonprofit sector do don’t do a lot of direct cash assistance we do a lot of services but it’s not a lot of giving people cash well in this because people needed cash and donors wanted us to distribute that well we said yes we’ll figure it out how we you know how we do that some things you had to continue you had residences for extremely vulnerable people you couldn’t close them maybe you did a little adapting and i’ll tell you sometimes you just had to say realistically we can’t do what we’ve always done just within the past day or two we canceled for the rest of this winter i’m sorry you know winter and spring our 15,000 youth uh basketball program which was indoors because we can’t do it so you’ve got to just realistically say if you try to quote unquote save everything the way it was you lose it and you don’t respond to what the new needs are so you you just got to be nimble you got to not be bound by precedent you got to know your limits and you also got to take risks and the other critical thing is you got to make mistakes if you don’t make mistakes you don’t help anybody yeah Kevin i couldn’t agree with you more about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes and i got to tell you if you want to nominate me for anything my career has been built on making mistakes every day so i’m i’m good at that one well i’ve done a few good things along the way i might add so now i want to turn the last question for our panelists and one minute each because i want to get at least one question from the audience as Wagner Alums how is that education experience shape your response to the pandemic each of you have one minute very simple uh you need good analytical ability i mean you can do it with your heart but you also better know the data you have you’re to have to deal with imperfect data but if you don’t do the analytical ability to kind of look at what’s going on you’re not going to make the right response and situation and some of the skill sets that uh that were part of the Wagner curriculum really helped to kind of focus on some of the analytics needed to make a good response particularly in emergency situations great um Jennifer uh building on borrowing and building on what uh with Monsignor Sullivan said the analytics courses that i took as well as the strategic planning uh and you know and and policy making you know in my work appreciating how you cannot do policy work without having strong strategy and without having a really good sense of how to um assess analyze understand day uh data and data trends so it’s helped me significantly may not have gone to law school had i known about Wagner before i can relate Erasma we still want to have Erasma so Alan yeah building on what Jennifer and what uh the Monsignor said um yes to all of it but then also the emphasis on racing and class um as well you know there are two pandemics that are taking or two crisis is going on right now in the city one is the pandemic the other is the the reckoning on racial equity and nonprofits are having to manage through both and a lot of what i learned at wagner helped inform some of the decisions we made recently including to change the structure of our leadership team which is our decision-making body we announced last week that we are adding 10 new members to that body all of whom are people of color and for the first time in our 130 year history a majority of our leadership team will be

made up of POCS and that is uh something that just isn’t done in historically Jewish organizations um and you know and a lot of that inclusivity and what i learned at Wagner helped inform that decision great thank you and then um let me turn to my colleague Tom Hernandez who’s Director of Alumni and Student Engagement at Wagner i think we’re just gonna have time for one question so Tom select the best question oh the pressure is on it is um okay i think with the election just a couple of weeks away folks want to know what is the one policy fix that you would like to see from a potential Biden administration that would help with the work you do okay and why don’t we start with uh Erasma if you’re back Alan Kevin and Jennifer briefly uh Erasma we’re still having um challenges okay um Kevin comprehensive immigration reform comprehensive immigration reform very simple and important Jennifer uh livable wage livable wage Tom do we have time that was you guys are very good do we have time for one more quick question Gordan oh Alan i couldn’t remember when you’re calling doing this i want to say money money the Democrats taking back the Senate and abide in White House will mean a lot of money that’s necessary for all of us both in Albany and in the city there will not be a state or a city bailout unless those two things happen and if they don’t happen we are in for a very long winter so what i heard was comprehensive immigration reform livable wage and money pure and simple so healthcare you can if you can hear me sorry i’m having some technical difficulties and health care to round it out so yes i want to thank our Wagner panelists for a thoughtful and robust discussion around such an unprecedented challenge that’s literally impacting us here in New York the tri-state region this country and around the world you make us proud and there are so many other NYU Wagner Alums who are on the front lines responding to code and i want to thank you the audience be safe be well thank you good evening