The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 75 percent, which makes this RFP a high risk for applicants.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for the Home Delivered Meals Program (HDM), which provides homebound older people, aged 60 and over, a home delivered meal on weekdays, except for certain holidays. This RFP does not offer weekend and holiday meals. Please note that “if a client is in need of a home delivered meal, the Case Management Agency is responsible for determining eligibility, initiating the service, authorizing the client for a meal and sending a referral to the local HDM program.”
There are three overarching goals of this RFP: “1) increasing meal options (choice) for recipients; 2) embracing the diversity of our City by increasing the availability of culturally aligned meals (diversity); and 3) promoting uniformly high-quality meals (quality) made from good food.”
The New York City Department for the Aging (“DFTA”) is the contracting agency, and the anticipated contract start date is July 1, 2020.
According to Mathematica Policy Research’s report “Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs Evaluation: Meal Cost Analysis,” the average cost of a home delivered meal in an urban area is $11.78, not including New York State’s $15 minimum wage, which is much lower than the DFTA-provided rate of $9.58 per meal. With this rate, contractors are expected to offer several cuisines, including cultural foods, in different meal formats, adhere to the Good Food Purchasing Program, provide free language assistance to persons with limited English proficiency, and offer social interaction and support for clients who are at “higher risk for becoming socially isolated and… deemed medically frail.” Although we applaud DFTA for prioritizing meal choice, quality, and diversity, the inadequate funding makes it difficult to reach these program goals, especially considering the cost of purchasing diverse foods, cooking, meal packaging, storing, and delivery. The RFP allows contractors to collect voluntary contributions from clients; however, this activity would be unnecessary if providers were fully funded for their services.
There is a lack of transparency as to the rate setting methodology and how DFTA determined the rates. Due to this stark contrast in current funding levels and real costs, only a commitment to a significant increase in funding now from DFTA would make the funding in the RFP less risky to providers. There should be a sample budget included that lays out the cost expectations of the contract and DFTA should collaborate with providers on the real costs of running programs and meeting deliverables.
The U.S. Census Bureau states that by 2030, one in five residents will be of retirement age and “older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.” With the growing number of seniors and the lack of funding, applicants are unlikely to be able to meet the program deliverables without subsidizing the contract substantially with other revenue given the high cost of living in New York City.
Lack of Cost Escalators
This RFP is a three-year contract with a three-year renewal option meaning providers could potentially receive the same rate for six years. Nonprofits struggle to meet rising costs as rates on contracts are not increased from year to year to address an increase in the costs of delivering services.
Lack of Startup Funds
Startup funds are not available through this RFP, which is crucial for the overall operations of this program for both existing and new contractors. Additional funds are critical to buy the equipment for kitchens to prepare, package, and store meals and for vehicles to deliver hot, chilled and frozen foods. The RFP specifically requires that “The contractor would utilize appropriate carriers or temperature-controlled vehicle compartments to meet the temperature requirements noted above. All food carriers should be washed with soap and water and a sanitizing solution after each use; air-dried and stored at least 6 inches off the floor.” This will be difficult to accomplish without additional funding for operating costs.
The RFP asks that proposers have a “program governance system” with requirements on what the governing body would include. Although we understand DFTA’s objective of including community members and those who have experience with these programs, it is unnecessary to state in the RFP what a governing body should comprise of and what its responsibilities are when nonprofits already have a board or governance structure in place that determine the success of its organization and programs.
Lack of Information
There are too many unknowns in the RFP for providers to submit a proposal. The RFP states “Prior to contract registration and during the term of the contract, change the program service size, program type, and model depending on the needs of the system, including adding or modifying the structured payment of services, and to change units if state and/ or federal definitions of service are changed.” This is a risk for applicants because they need to ensure that they have enough resources to sustain the program in case DFTA decreases funding at any time or increases the program size during the contract.
The RFP also includes a provision where “Contracts are subject to liquidated damages if they receive less than 80% satisfaction (overall) on two surveys in a row.” It is unclear what the survey standards are, how frequent the surveys will be distributed, and what liquidated damages providers are subject to. This is a huge risk for providers as there is no information about how the idea of liquidated damages came to be, how damages will be assessed and collected and how this will affect the sustainability of programs and organizations. DFTA requires “periodic taste tests” throughout the program without stating what the standards of these taste tests will be and how they will be factored into assessing the satisfaction of the clients.
Time to Respond
The initial proposal deadline was March 3rd, giving proposers only six weeks to respond, but according to Addendum 3, the proposal deadline will be extended from March 3rd to April 8th. This extension provides more time for proposers to develop their best proposals, but it would be preferred if initial proposal deadlines were more realistic as providers spend time and effort in to rushing to respond, which is not ideal.
The HSC RFP Rater assesses the feasibility, opportunities, and risk in City and State human services procurements. Rater scores are based on the RFP and related documents available to the public via New York City’s HHS Accelerator or New York State’s Grants Gateway. The rater consists of 60 questions developed and tested by a team of procurement professionals. The questions are based on information that is necessary to help prospective proposers assess risk.
Each answer is weighted based on the degree of risk inherent in the subject of the question. Answers that imply low to moderate risk are allotted points on a lower scale range compared to higher risk questions. For compound questions, the answer to both parts must be “yes” or “not applicable” to be considered low risk. Scores are calculated by adding all the question scores together. The higher the score, the greater the risk. The scoring range is from 60 to 230, with 0 percent risk equal to a score of 60 and the maximum risk score or 100 percent equal to 230 points. Users can view the answer to each question by clicking the down arrow next to each section to expand the section.
The HSC RFP Rater is not a substitute for the due diligence necessary to inform individual organization decisions.