Security officers in some of the city’s homeless shelters received a reprieve from City Hall.

Members of the New York City Council, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced they’re committing $40.5 million in wages and benefits for security officers who work in homeless shelters run by private companies. The mayor, along with 32BJ SEIU leader Kyle Bragg, believe that these frontline workers should be compensated for the sacrifices they made at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a joint news conference with members of the union 32BJ SEIU, de Blasio said “…You can’t ask someone to help us solve one of the most challenging problems we face as a society, but not have enough to put food on their own tables or pay their own rent or take care of their own families. We’re asking them to do something for all of us. We’ve got to do something for them. We’ve got to get it right. So, Kyle and I have talked about this many times, and Kyle says here’s the solution. Here’s what would make it right. It would be fair to these families, these workers, but it would be the right thing to do for the whole city.”

Int. 2006-2020, introduced by New York City Council Member Francisco Moya, expands the prevailing wage law to cover security guards at shelters managed by city-contracted shelter operators, ensuring they’re provided with standard wages, benefits, health care and paid time off. Int. 1995-2020, introduced by New York City Council Member Diana Ayala, ensures they receive the training needed to guard homeless shelters.

The actions by the mayor, the city council and the union ensure that more 4,000 officers working at homeless shelters operated by non-profits receive prevailing wage rates starting this October.

“The challenging reality that so many shelter security officers continue to endure is changing, starting now,” stated Bragg at the news conference. “Today marks a critical turning point for these officers and their families. We are grateful to Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Diana Ayala and Francisco Moya for making sure no shelter security officer goes home hungry.

“We will continue to fight until all security officers receive the dignity, respect, and good, family-sustaining jobs they deserve.”

According to the union, about two-thirds of security officers in the city’s homeless shelters work at privately operated shelters run by non-profits under contract with the city. But they earn around $7,000 less than security officers at shelters run directly by the city. They also don’t have the proper access and training to handle situations that may arise at the shelters.

A recent 32BJ SEIU survey of 120 homeless security officers found that they are uninsured and experience homelessness at four times the rate of average New Yorkers. Of those surveyed almost 91% identified as Black, Hispanic or Asian American. Among that 91%, Black guards made up 79% of those surveyed. Fifty-three percent of guards identified as male and more than 53% said they were in their 30s and 40s.

Almost 56% said they had children or dependents of some kind.

“Not only are we able to get great people to do this work, we’re going to be able to keep them, because you can’t retain really good people if you don’t give them the compensation they need,” said de Blasio on Friday. “This is going to allow us to have a better and better workforce.

“Their lives are going to change this year—this year, 2021.”