The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 72 percent, which makes this RFP a high risk for applicants.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for Older Adult Centers (OAC) and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) Supportive Service Programs, which provide “community-based programs for New York’s older adults, providing individual and congregate services on-site (and sometimes virtually) where seniors live or in nearby community locations.” Contractors can propose for an OAC, NORC or a Network OAC contract.
The goal of this RFP emphasizes the need for flexibility and diversification in programming especially with the changing landscape of older New Yorkers. NYC Aging seeks proposals with innovations in programming, technology and virtual programming, inclusion of multiple age cohorts, cultural and linguistic competence to foster inclusion of underserved populations, marketing, and innovations in funding and other types of support.
The Department for the Aging (“DFTA”) is the contracting agency, and the anticipated contract start date is October 1, 2021.
Inadequate Time to Respond
Although the proposal deadline has been extended from May 27th to June 10th, the deadline to submit questions is May 26th. With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and no guarantee from DFTA on when a final addendum will be released, providers need more time to go through all six addendums to submit their best proposal. A concept paper was also never issued for NORCs, which puts proposers at a disadvantage as they did not have time to plan and strategize for NORCs, especially during the pandemic. The limited time to respond to the RFP, including when questions will be answered, hinders existing providers attempting to respond to the RFP while also responding to current needs including vaccine scheduling and Grab and Go Meals. It is also a deterrent to competition, as new or smaller providers have limited time and resources to respond and need to have questions answered before proposing for the first time.
Programming During COVID-19
The RFP states that this RFP is necessary because “the COVID-19 pandemic requires a significant shift in what services are provided and how they are delivered” and also asks proposers to develop programs that reflect a “post-pandemic landscape.” However, the pandemic is not over and COVID-19 rules are still constantly changing. It is impossible to determine what a post-pandemic environment will look like as the situation is evolving and as the City recovers. Specifically, current centers do not know how many older adults will return to in-person services once they are restarted. Over 100,000 older New Yorkers received DFTA services for the first time during the pandemic, mostly via the GetFood program, and it is likely that many will begin to attend centers to receive meals there. Alternatively, centers may see a decrease in participants if older adults continue to fear in-person activities, or if they moved out of the City or passed away. There is no way to make accurate assumptions about this without centers first opening their doors.
There are also concerns about OACs being required to provide congregate meals, especially with changing social distancing and indoor dining rules. Although there may be older adults that are comfortable being served indoors, there is a lack of guidance on safety regulations, vaccination requirements, and how to meet the average daily participant threshold while social distancing.
Although we appreciate that DFTA is looking for innovative and flexible program models to account for lessons learned during the pandemic, changing older adult needs, and to adapt to future crises, there is no assurance that contractors will be awarded the full cost of services to implement these various program models. Also, the majority of new funding comes from federal stimulus funding for two years when this is a six-year contract, meaning that funding will not last the full term of the potential contracts and cause a $40M cliff in 2024.
Additionally, the RFP may include a mixed reimbursement model for OAC and Network contracts. Although DFTA will work with contractors on establishing performance and program metrics, there is a lack of clarity on if or how this will be implemented, which is a concern without clear understanding on how contractors will be evaluated and how they will be fully reimbursed for their services.
The RFP is a three-year contract with a three-year renewal option with no cost escalators or cost-of-living adjustment meaning providers could potentially receive the same funding 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.
Although the Mayor and Speaker announced full funding for the FY21 indirect cost rate initiative and increased baselined funding rate to prevent future cuts, the City has yet to release guidance on how to implement the ICR for RFPs, which is crucial to honor the contracts of human services providers for a fair recovery from the pandemic. This is apparent in this RFP which sets indirect at 10% for proposals.
As the City recovers from COVID, providers will need to purchase safety equipment, however, when asked if COVID expenses will be reimbursed, DFTA responded with “As situations develop, and we receive more health guidelines, NYC Aging will inform providers based on the situation and availability of funding.” This implies that contractors may not be fully reimbursed for all COVID expenses, which is another factor to consider when developing budgets.
The RFP also requires locations to be cooling centers and “DFTA will review the needs during the cooling season and determine how funding will be allocated.” This suggests an unfunded mandate as providers may not be fully reimbursed for these services depending on funding availability.
Transparency in Awards
The RFP states that DFTA can “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 City, 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 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.