December 17, 2018

JFS announces program, staffing cuts

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) announced layoffs in some areas and expansion in other areas of its operation Oct. 16, saying it was looking to position JFS for success as it responds to shifts in how programs are funded.

“JFS must evolve to help ensure the safety, health and well-being of the vulnerable clients we serve is protected in a sustainable way,” said Paul S. Castro, CEO of JFS. “In this time of transition, JFS has reduced administrative costs and staffing, increased fundraising efforts and is pursuing new service models where funding is stronger and more certain.”

JFS serves about 100,000 clients of all backgrounds a year and has a budget of about $30 million. 

Sixteen managerial, administrative and union staffers received layoff notices, and another eight employees were offered reduced hours, which will save JFS around $800,000 annually. The cuts will reduce, but not eliminate, programs for the homeless, for seniors at the Valley Storefront as well as counseling and social work services for the Orthodox. 

“Each of these areas represent a vulnerability for the organization, and have a history of not meeting their bottom line. The agency has always absorbed those losses, and now we’re looking at a point in time where it doesn’t make sense for us to do that,” Castro said.

The squeeze comes both from instability in local, state and federal funding, as well as sluggish fundraising and donors making gifts to specific programs, Castro said.

At the same time, JFS is expanding in areas that are receiving increased government funding, specifically health care and mental health. Some of the laid-off staff will be offered positions for new programs in those areas.

Both the Valley Storefront in North Hollywood and the Pico-Robertson Storefront will cut hours and services, effective Nov. 16. Valley Storefront’s Senior Center director care was laid off, and it will lose one day a week of senior programming. Other services, including the daily meal program, will remain at five days a week.

Pico-Robertson will have some of its counseling programs cut to three days a week. Aleinu Family Resource Center, which serves the Orthodox community, was reduced from five to three days a week, and its director, Debbie Fox, was let go. Management of Aleinu will be distributed among other layers of administrators, Castro said. The client base will still have access to social workers on the off days through SOVA Community Food and Resource Program, which runs out of Pico-Robertson and has counselors on site.

The senior programs at Pico-Robertson and senior programs at four other sites have government contracts and will continue to operate five days a week. The newly reduced Valley Storefront senior program does not receive state funding and is entirely dependent on private donors.

Gramercy Place, a family homeless shelter that JFS has operated for 25 years, will be converted into a domestic violence shelter. Castro said that homeless services are primarily funded by federal dollars, which has become a shaky source of funding. Government funding for domestic violence is more stable, and JFS has more expertise and infrastructure in the area of domestic violence than in homelessness.

In areas of growth, JFS recently announced a two-year, $3.6 million contract, through the Affordable Care Act, which will bring together hospitals, mental-health professionals and care facilities under JFS leadership to provide community-based services to reduce unnecessary re-hospitalizations among seniors.

Two other new programs will assist the frail elderly and disabled in integrating into California’s new managed care system and in receiving home-based services to avoid institutionalization. County funding will help JFS expand mental health services for the Farsi-speaking community.

All of these, Castro said, are areas that seem, for now, to have stable funding, unlike the areas that were cut.

“These are staffers who have been part of the JFS family for quite a long time. Throughout the agency, people are watchful in terms of what this means. We would love to give assurance that this will never happen again, that this will be the fix. What we are clear on is that we can say that we will keep our eye on what trends look like,” Castro said.