And so with all this coming together, what my deputy director and I, we had a pretty agonizing weekend, which I’m sure everybody had, that weekend of March 14th and 15th, and we decided we gotta close our doors to our clients come Monday morning. Because we could make them sick, we realized we had 30% of staff with school-aged children, no schools, no day care. We realized we had 35% of our own staff who were in high risk factors for COVID, due to age or preexisting conditions. So, we knew that’s what we had to do. And so for the past month or so, we have 100% of our staff operating and working remotely. Our attorneys were in a much better position to do that than our support staff. So we really spent our first week or so figuring out how are we gonna get our staff the tools they need? We ordered laptops, we did a lot of other things, electronic document signing, which we previously didn’t have. Did a lot of skills training while everybody was trying to figure out ‘how am I going to do this’? Once we decided we’re all gonna work remotely ready or not, here we come, we’re doing it. Then that’s what we decided to do.
We’ve been really facing a lot of challenges with illegal evictions, the unemployment spikes, all the things Ron talked about, and using a lot of new strategies to figure out how to reach our client base. So I’m gonna leave that alone ’cause I might have gone over my time.
Levi: Thank you. We should come back to that if we do have time. Raun? What do you see?
Raun Rasmussen: Thanks David, and thanks for providing this opportunity to talk about our services and the work that our incredible staff is doing. So, I’m the Executive Director of Legal Services NYC, we have a staff of about 600 serving roughly 50,000 clients a year in New York city which has, some of you may know, a population of a little over 8 million. A poverty population of about 1.7 million. We told our staff to start working from home on March 12th, and we closed our offices on March 17th, so right around the same time frame that Laura was talking about. We, in New York state and New York city were seeing the need to close schools, social distance, protect our staff and our clients. We mobilized our entire team pretty much over night, I have to say, although over night of course takes two or three weeks because like Laura we had to purchase maybe a few more but about 150 laptops and printers and WiFi, Mi-Fis, too. And then figure out how to distribute them when we were supposed to be keeping our social distance from each other. So that was a big challenge for our IT team and for our directors of administration, et cetera et cetera.
I will say that our staff has been incredible from day one. We have a long history of, as Laura does, responding to crisis, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and the economic downturn in 2008. And our staff are energized by the opportunity and the need to respond to the needs of our clients that are so exacerbated under situations like this. The big difference in this situation and the reason why I agree with Laura saying this is gonna be the roughest disaster that we’ve responded to is that this disaster is driving us apart, physically. And it makes it a lot more challenging to work together. We’re finding ways to do that, but it also makes it a lot more challenging to support each other. And given the amount of illness, and I’ll talk about that a little bit more, in the community, in the city, and also among our staff, that support is really critical.
So, our, we have an access line that continues to function remotely. Twelve staff members who speak more than 16 languages, kept our services open that way. Existing clients of course had to be continue to be served. And then there are new clients who are facing illegal evictions, who have challenges applying for unemployment insurance who have to continue, who have problems with domestic violence. And so we have to both respond to our existing clients, which we continue to do, but also anticipate the needs of new clients who have COVID-related problems. A couple of exciting things that I’ll mention that have happened. One is that our social workers created an emergency client fund recognizing that there are a lot of our clients that are not either able to access public benefits or are not eligible for certain kinds of public benefits, so we created an emergency client fund with private fundraising efforts and now a couple of grants that we’ve applied for too that we will provide, we hope, up to $200,000 for clients who can’t afford food or just the most basic of essentials. We have also created a broad range of Know Your Rights materials that are both already available for clients and for those who aren’t clients, but are also training materials for our staff and for other advocates in New York City.
The last thing I’ll just say is that we’ve also needed to pay attention to the survival of our organization. Meaning that we’ve had to focus on stabilizing and ensuring that our structure will be stable going forward. We’ve already heard about the IOLTA challenges, we’re gonna face those hear in New York city and state. A post-economic crash in 2010, the IOLTA fund went from 36 million down to $6 million pretty much within a year. And we anticipate a similar kind of crash this time around. We have recently passed a state budget, but the governor reserved the right to reduce funding going forward. And there is on April 30th and June 30th and December 31st, the governor has the right, if the revenues are less than 99% of what was otherwise anticipated to reduce funding across the board. So we’re anticipating state cuts, we learned last week that there are $20 million in city cuts to our housing funding coming. And there’s more to come. So stabilizing our organization going forward from a both overall funding and a cash flow standpoint, and making sure most importantly that our staff are supported so that they can continue to provide great services for our clients is what we’re trying to manage.
Levi: Thank you.