As we bring you our update this week, Center for Family Life is reviewing trends identified in a recent Center for an Urban Future study detailing how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted employment in New York City. The City has lost more than 770,000 jobs during the pandemic, with the steepest job losses clustered in several low- and middle-wage industries, with the restaurant industry losing over 68% of its jobs.
As many families in our Sunset Park community work in the service sector and are reeling from this staggering increase in unemployment, CFL has provided over 1 thousand three hundred community residents with emergency cash assistance, distributing over $1,035,000 to families to help them meet immediate needs. In addition, all families accessing emergency cash assistance are being screened by CFL staff and connected to all needed services, including assistance with submitting unemployment claims, job placement, benefits access to support, emergency food, afterschool programming, child maltreatment prevention, foster care, immigration legal services, and small business development services. This spring, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we filed nearly 3,000 tax returns, bringing $3.8 million of additional funds into our community. CFL remains prepared to support our community throughout this crisis, as we expect that community needs will remain heightened for months, if not years, to come.
Center for Family Life’s commitment during this volatile and uncertain time is to innovate and demonstrate models of practice that are scalable and relevant to the fluid post-COVID recovery environment that we will be experiencing throughout FY21. We are poised to quickly and efficiently stand up pilot projects and model programs that demonstrate innovative approaches to providing safe and enriching programming for all ages of children, youth, and adults. While the prospect of service provision in this highly uncertain environment may appear daunting, we are excited to lean into this moment and to provide examples and models that others across our city can draw inspiration from and can replicate. We view this as our responsibility and are eager to show how CFL is uniquely positioned and uniquely able to provide innovative and creative solutions to the pressing needs and realities that our community faces in this extraordinary time.
We are pleased to share the program updates below. We hope that these highlights provide a glimpse into CFL’s dynamic response to the challenges posed by this volatile, uncertain time. Please note that new developments from this week are identified with italicized text.
Center for Family Life’s main office remains open at this time at 443 39th Street, Brooklyn. We are working to maintain all services upon which our community depends, while also following the evolving health and safety guidelines and social distancing.
Summer Youth Programming
- This summer, CFL’s Summer Youth Employment Program is providing 450 young people ages 14 – 21 with virtual, stipended work readiness, career exploration, and service-learning activities, thanks to the support from the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the Youth Empowerment Summer initiative. Young people chose from the themes of Environmental Justice, Social Justice through the Arts, or Community Literacy to design unique projects they will implement virtually by the end of the 5-week program.
- In our “Life Lines” Performing and Visual Arts Troupes, 35 teens have set out to expand their leadership skills and broaden their horizons in our stipended, intensive six-week program. With an overarching theme of Racial Justice, the Performing Arts Troupe is creating performance pieces inspired by social movements related to the fight for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous equity and justice. Members of Visual Arts Troupe have the unique opportunity to collaborate with Brooklyn Grange, a local rooftop farming and green roofing business, on a mural project at their Sunset Park location which faces the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
- With a partial funding restoration from the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), CFL kicked off our first-ever hybrid virtual and in-person summer camps in July — online and also at PS 24 and PS 971! Campers have the option to participate in a one-week in-person program, where they and their peers can reconnect and have the opportunity to learn, practice, and acclimate to socially-distanced group activities in preparation for the school year. Both camps are providing a variety of programs, including art, dance, sports, mindfulness, theatre, music instruction, and food justice. When not on site for in-person activities, campers have access to a diverse menu of online interactive activities via Zoom.
- We have welcomed even more youth to our in-person summer camp at PS 24, which has grown from three to seven units over the past two weeks. Campers have enjoyed three special event days: Superhero Day, Color Day Olympics, and “Out of this World” Day.
- This week at PS 971, students enjoyed pirate-themed activities including “Pin the Patch on the Pirate,” pirate accessory making, and a socially-distanced Treasure Hunt, where participants learned the importance of teamwork and how the whole crew helps to make the ship sail.
Regional Enrichment Center
- CFL staff from across our school-based programs continue to provide child care and educational supervision to the children of first responders, health care workers, and certain other essential personnel at one of the NYC Department of Education’s Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs) in the adjacent neighborhood of Windsor Terrace. With support from the Fund for Public Schools, a team of CFL Program Directors, Social Workers, Activity Specialists, Group Leaders, and AmeriCorps members are running a safe, fun summer camp for the children of frontline workers Monday – Friday, 12:30 pm – 6:30 pm, for 10 weeks with an exciting menu of activities
- Last Friday, the REC hosted a scavenger hunt and series of challenges, inspired by social group work, to retrieve objects that were “stolen” by an activity specialist during a camp-wide skit. After the objects were found, campers came together for a closing presentation during which our activity specialist revealed her reasoning for stealing the items – feeling left out – and campers learned the importance of inclusivity.
Community Resource Center
- Programs at our Community Resource Center, including our Benefits Access (formerly Single Stop) program, our satellite Human Resources Administration program, our health insurance enrollment program, and our ActionNYC immigration legal services program, continue to operate on a remote access basis via phone.
- In response to increased community demand and thanks to the donations of our generous supporters, CFL’s Food Pantry continues to operate with expanded hours — Monday 10 AM – 1 PM, Tuesday 10 AM – 1 PM, Wednesday 11 AM – 1 PM, Thursday 11 AM – 1 PM, and Friday 10 AM – 1 PM — and is now distributing over 10,000 meals per week! Packages are being prepared in our pantry and distributed outside with clients observing 6 foot distancing in line. Mondays are designated Seniors Only days at the food pantry to reduce wait times for Sunset Park’s older residents. Thanks to our close ties to public and private funders, who value our deep ties to the Sunset Park community and our on-the-ground response to the COVID-19 crisis, CFL has leveraged over $1 million in funding for client cash assistance, much of which is designated for individuals who are ineligible for federal stimulus payments.
- CFL is a Trusted Enroller for GetFoodNYC, an emergency food delivery program developed by New York City in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is able to directly enroll our clients in the program. We are thrilled to provide another avenue for clients to access food at no cost, particularly those who are homebound.
- Post-tax season, CFL’s team is continuing to offer guidance and assistance with Economic Impact Payments, amending tax returns, the renewal of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), and general tax-related questions.
Adult Employment Program
- In our Adult Employment Program, our ESOL program, job placement services, assistance with unemployment claims, and case management through our Immigrant Families and Healthy Families programs continue to serve existing and newly enrolled clients remotely via phone, video conferencing, and email as appropriate. We continue to develop resources to share with our clients, including a PowerPoint presentation on accessing unemployment benefits available in English, Spanish, and Chinese and a Google Form to record requests for information from the Adult Employment team on applying for unemployment benefits or accessing job placement services. AEP continues to host weekly online workshops on topics ranging from job readiness to COVID-19 to financial literacy. Click here to join our mailing list for weekly updates from AEP.
- Over the past two weeks, more than 10 AEP participants have received job offers in customer service, data entry, and warehouse operations.
- One of AEP’s Employment Counselors, Odalys Cortes, partnered with Cooperatives United for Sunset Park (CUSP) to host an online workshop for CFL’s co-op members with tips on virtual interviewing.
- AEP’s Job Developer, Korey Grumm, participated in roundtable discussions with partner organizations including Bottomless Closet and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) to share best practices and discuss successes and challenges in serving community job seekers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooperative Development Program
- CFL’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) and worker coops continue to meet virtually, and our staff continues to support coop worker-owners in accessing various forms of relief, including the Payroll Protection Program, researching potential new business lines, and offering OSHA training that will allow workers to safely expand their business into Proactive Coronavirus Disinfection Care.
- Last week, CDP was selected as one of 20 semi-finalists for The Opportunity Challenge: $1 Million to Uplift Immigrant Communities, a joint grantmaking initiative of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund and the Tarsadia Foundation. CDP’s proposal to scale worker-ownership through the Brightly® franchise and Up & Go technology was selected from among 470 applications. We expect to hear about final grant selections later in August.
- Up & Go had a great first month back in business! Up & Go re-opened on July 1st with COVID-19 safety precautions and a new specialized move-in/out cleaning service, in addition to its residential and commercial cleaning services.
- Throughout the pandemic, CDP has supported the worker-owners with whom we partner to secure and distribute hundreds of new PPE and promotional items across 5 cooperatives, including reusable cloth masks, KN95 masks, reusable and disposable gloves, and hand sanitizers.
- In case you missed it: CDP’s work with Up & Go was featured in The New York Times!
Family Counseling Program
- Our child maltreatment prevention services, funded by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), including our ACS/Beacon services jointly funded by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services and the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, continues to provide service to our families. Weekly contacts are being made in person when advised, and via video using WhatsApp or FaceTime and phone calls. Case planners and/or supervisors have been in contact with all enrolled families at this time, and we have reopened intake and to accept new families into our program. All casework staff are receiving ongoing training in the Mobility Mentoring practice model, and evidence-informed practice framework that focuses on the achievement of economic as well as domestic stability, to guide their work in supporting families to achieve wellbeing, and all activities and contact notes are being entered into the PROMIS and Connections systems, as required by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services. To better support our Family Counseling participants and their families during this uncertain time, we are hosting two COVID-19 support groups, one in Spanish and one in Mandarin.
Census 2020 Outreach
- To ensure a complete and accurate count in Sunset Park, CFL’s 2020 Census outreach team continues to encourage community residents to self-complete the Census via technology-enabled outreach and communications, including text messaging, email, and social media. Staff from our Adult Employment Program are also including information regarding the Census in their virtual programming and in phone contacts with clients.
- CFL’s census drop-in center was selected by the NYC Census 2020 Office as a featured location for July 29th’s city-wide “Census Day of Action.” NYC Census Grants Program Director Alyson Tarek, along with six volunteers, joined CFL staff and partners from the Brooklyn Public Library and the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone to promote census completion in the Sunset Park community. We were thrilled to be joined by State Senator Zellnor Myrie and City Council Member Brad Lander at the drop-in center, who are vocal advocates for a complete and accurate 2020 Census count.
- With help from City Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s office, CFL partnered with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to arrange for a COVID-19 mobile testing unit at the Community Board building on August 3, in conjunction with the census drop-in center’s operations.
Center for Family Life remains committed to our mission and serving our clients. We recognize that the communities we partner with are experiencing serious challenges at this time, including unemployment, a lack of resources for child care for parents who still need to work, food insecurity, and inadequate access to healthcare. We will continue to work closely with our Board, funders, and other partners to maintain critically needed services for our neighbors.
We will do our best to provide timely updates to our Facebook page as things change. With gratitude and appreciation for our supporters, we hope that you and yours stay safe and healthy at this time.
of children in our early education centers met or exceeded goals for social-emotional development
of the young adults in our Scattered Site Supportive Housing program were gainfully employed, engaged in school, or both