June 9, 2023
NYC Council accuses Mayor Adams’ budget team of ‘impeding’ hiring at city agencies amid staffing crisis

NYC Council accuses Mayor Adams’ budget team of ‘impeding’ hiring at city agencies amid staffing crisis

Mayor Adams’ budget office is fueling the municipal government staffing crisis by maintaining policies that have hampered agencies’ ability to fill vacant positions, according to a City Council committee.

Manhattan Councilwoman Gale Brewer made the case in a Monday letter to Jacques Jiha, director of Adams’ Office of Management and Budget, or OMB.

Brewer, a Democrat, cited a recent memo from OMB that cleared the way for city agencies to speed up hiring and boost salary ranges for some — but not all — jobs with high attrition rates.

She said that means “excessive hurdles” are still in place for many other city jobs.

The councilwoman, who chairs the Oversight and Investigations Committee, also voiced concern that Jiha’s office has been “refusing to approve agency hiring lists in a timely way or at all.”

“This is consistent with reports the Council has received from officials of multiple agencies about OMB’s role in impeding staff hiring and retention,” Brewer wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Daily News.

Budget Director Jacques Jiha and Mayor Eric Adams

An Adams spokesman said Tuesday that OMB has to review all agency hires to ensure compliance with labor contracts.

Still, the spokesman, Jonah Allon, said the office is taking steps to bolster recruitment, such as expediting reviews of some hiring requests and hosting municipal government hiring events across the city.

“We will continue to improve the hiring process and welcome the Council’s help in overcoming the challenges that the city — like employers across the country — faces in recruiting and retaining employees,” Allon said.

Testifying before the Council earlier this month, Jiha said he has scrapped some OMB restrictions — including a pandemic-era policy that limited agencies to hiring one new employee for every two who left — to spur recruitment at a time that the city government is reeling from steep staff shortages.

Gale Brewer in Queens on Jan. 13, 2022.

But Brewer argued in her missive that Jiha’s office should not keep any roadblocks in place and urged him to immediately “remove or justify any remaining barriers to fill the vacancies that are plaguing agencies across our city.”

She also demanded that Jiha’s office provide her committee a list of records by April 7 related to existing OMB hiring policies and communications with agencies.

The city has more than 23,000 budgeted vacancies across its municipal agencies — about 8% of the total workforce — according to data from Adams’ office.

That includes more than 2,100 vacancies at the Department of Social Services, which is failing to process most applications for food stamps and cash assistance in a timely manner amid the staff shortages. That’s forced low-income New Yorkers to go without the critical aid, sometimes for months.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is also sitting on hundreds of vacancies as affordable housing production has fallen far short of the Adams administration’s goals — with construction begun on about 9,000 fewer units than the mayor wanted last fiscal year.

On top of the budgeted vacancies, the Adams administration last year permanently eliminated hundreds of vacant positions at city agencies as part of a so-called Program to Eliminate the Gap, or PEG, to generate savings.

Eric Adams is pictured during a press conference in Times Square on March 20, 2023.

Adams and Jiha have justified their fiscal strategy by citing concerns that the city government could face an annual budget deficit as large as $10 billion by 2026. They’ve also noted that the local migrant crisis — which is costing the city more than $5 million per day — could worsen the fiscal outlook.

But Democrats in the City Council have countered that some of the PEG cuts are needlessly deep. As part of this year’s city budget negotiations, they’ve also called on the mayor to increase social services funding.

While Brewer stopped short of accusing the administration of deliberately blocking new hires, a Council source who spoke on condition of anonymity to be candid said he suspects OMB is keeping restrictions in place as a way to expand the PEG.

“It’s like a shadow PEG,” said the source.

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