Update: Special Initiatives SYEP RFP Reissue
HSC and its members appreciate DYCD’s continued commitment to youth workforce programs and expanding SYEP. HSC released a rating outlining major risk areas for this RFP that we hoped would be addressed in the reissue. Unfortunately, as stated at the pre-proposal conference by DYCD, there has not been any changes to the RFP in comparison to the one released in the summer. Therefore, there are still lingering risks that providers should consider before proposing for these solicitations:
- General Timeline: Proposals are due on November 21, 2019 and contracts are to begin on March 11, 2020. However, there is a concern as to when successful bidders will be notified of the awards, especially because they need time to launch the programs and work with the NYCHA developments.
- Burdensome Paperwork: Since these RFPs have not been improved from the last iteration of RFPs, providers still struggle with the huge amount of paperwork that they must collect and prepare for enrollment. Also, there is no electronic record or timekeeping system to streamline data and paperwork, which create additional administrative burdens on the provider as they work with different NYCHA developments.
- Project-based v. Work-based: Although providers have found that younger youth project-based programs led to many benefits including improved communication, demeanor, and public speaking skills, there is still the issue of younger youth being paid a stipend that is less than the minimum wage. This is especially important because of the additional costs that younger youth incur such as transportation and food, which may hinder them from participating or completing the program.
The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 60% percent, which makes this RFP a moderate to substantial risk for applicants.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for operation of the Special Initiatives Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) youth aged 14-24 throughout New York City. The Special Initiatives SYEP offers four different options: vulnerable youth (age 14-24), NYCHA Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (age 14-24), NYCHA (age 14-24), and year-round sector focus (age 16-21). The goal of the Special Initiatives SYEP is to “…introduce youth to career pathways and the world of work while helping them build essential work-readiness skills and understand the educational prerequisites for their career and life goals.”
The Special Initiatives SYEP is complimentary to the Community-Based SYEP and the School-Based SYEP RFPs. The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (“DYCD”) is the contracting agency, and the anticipated contract start date will be March 1, 2019.
Note that HSC also rated the School-Based SYEP and Community-Based SYEP RFPs and the ratings are substantially similar to the Special Initiatives SYEP.
Special Initiatives SYEP funding is based on a price per participant allotment and on its face this RFP reflects an increase in funding relative to previous RFPs. However, it is still not feasible to deliver a high quality program with the rates provided. Given the increased requirements for this program, notably securing space and staff to support the project-based experience and the additional needs that the participants served through this program require, a funding increase is essential.
The Special Initiatives SYEP requires the provider to “collect information on the hours completed in project/work sessions attended by each participant” with paper forms. Although there is a possibility that a provider may not have access to a computer, paper timesheets waste administrative resources and time that could be allocated to programs. It is necessary that there be one digitized system to capture timekeeping and payroll, which eliminates the paper process.
Inadequate Time to Respond
This RFP was released on November 2, questions about the RFP are due on December 3 and the submission deadline is December 10. If questions about the RFP are due on December 3 and there is no date from DYCD on how soon the answers to these questions will be released, it is not feasible for providers to incorporate this information into their proposals by December 10.
Similarly, since three SYEP RFPs were released, proposals are required for multiple sites, and with the Thanksgiving holiday, five weeks is not enough time to submit adequate proposals. Given the RFP requirements, this timeline was unrealistic and not conducive to high-quality proposals. Each site operates with different geographic, demographic, and infrastructure challenges and advantages. Thus, providers cannot simply copy and paste their responses into multiple applications. RFPs should allow at least six weeks for providers to respond. For more complex RFPs, such as this one, that period should be even longer. We encourage all City agencies to adopt more reasonable RFP timelines to allow for stronger applications and better programs.
Project-Based v. Work-Based
The RFP states that younger youth (age 14-15) will participate in project-based learning experiences. The risk in this model is the inadequate funding to support the increased requirements. Younger youth are given a $700 stipend for participating in six weeks of project-based learning experiences, which is a small amount compared to minimum wage.
Additionally, the stipend system may deter younger youth from applying for the SYEP since many participants depend on this income to support their families. According to the Youth Employment Task Force, 77% of SYEP youth are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and 69% of SYEP youth are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Similarly, providers may struggle in retaining younger youth participants for six weeks, especially if they find a summer job that pays minimum wage. DYCD would still require providers to fill the spot if younger youth drop out and the new participants would be weeks behind in the program. These new participants will not be able to receive the full $700 stipend since they have not completed the six week program.
Overall Program Design
This RFP is designed to serve multiple youth populations, which may be a challenge for providers who have expertise in serving a target population. Most providers are experts at a few target populations, such as foster care, court-involved, disabled, or disconnected youth, but not all, and so not having a targeted population poses a challenge to many providers.
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 zero percent risk equal to a score of 60 and the maximum risk score or 100% 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.