More Support for Senior Centers
March 15th, 2011
Alshawn Rushing filed this post.
Department For The Aging commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli testified before City Council Monday as the city and advocates continued their efforts to keep the city’s senior centers open. (For more on the effects of the proposed closings, go here.)
Paoli, along with seniors and advocates were before the Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Senior Centers, where the focus was on the effect cuts in funding for seniors. The worst cuts are set to come from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cut $27 million in Title XX funding. The aging department also faces cuts in city funding, which would affect case management services and food programs.
“DFTA fully appreciates that the governor and the legislature are facing an unprecedented deficit and need to make painful choices to close the vast budget gap, but the loss of Title XX funding for the department would have a devastating impact on the agency’s network of services — an impact that extends far beyond what is appropriate or reasonable for an agency of DFTA’s size,Ē said Paoli.
Over the weekend, the state Assembly said its budget would include the Title XX funding.
“DFTA has received positive feedback from the state legislature, and I am hoping that the $25 million will be restored for DFTA senior centers,” said Paoli. “We learned just this weekend that both the Assembly and Senate restored Title XX discretionary funding in their respective budget bills.”
If the legislature restores the money, it would then still have to negotiate the funding with Cuomo.
Councilmember Rosie Mendez criticized the governorís decision to cut Title XX funding, and talked about the effects of not having help for seniors in the past.
“I remember being a little girl in the ’70s, and watching TV, and being horrified by stories of senior citizens buying dog and cat food because they couldn’t afford regular food. That’s why we opened up senior centers,” she said Mendez.
Members of City Council questioned Cuomo’s decision to cut spending for seniors, while blocking an extension of the state’s income tax surcharge on wealthy residents.
“It’s not going to hurt the rich if they want to buy their girlfriend a gold watch, it’s not going to hurt the rich if they want to buy a $125,000 car. I donít understand the governor’s position,Ē said Councilmember Robert Jackson. According to Jackson, the tax gives the state an additional $5 billion in revenue.
While the City Council has saved senior centers from closing in the past, keeping them open has been problematic. According to Councilmember David Greenfield, 17 senior centers that were slated to close last year and didn’t have yet to receive funding, and two never reopened.
Several advocates testified at the hearings, calling on the governor to not cut funding to senior centers. Elaine Rockoff, director of community-based programs for the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, said her organization’s centers served 600,000 meals to over 14,000 seniors, and that it s home delivered meal programs served over 600,000 meals to over 3,000 seniors, “many of them frail and isolated. … If these funds are not awarded for fiscal year 2012, it is not clear how we will be able to continue providing meals at these same nutritional levels.”
Rockoff said her clients have written thousands of letters and made hundreds of phone calls to protest the cuts.
Jane Barry, executive director for the Stein Senior Center, recalled her experiences in 1994 when she ran the first social adult dementia program in the city and funding concerns prompted the closing of two sites. “I tracked the participants affected by the closure and 50 percent died within 6 months of the closing of the program. Also, two of our volunteers had a recurrence of their cancer and both died within months of the closing,” she said.By Gail Robinson on March 15, 2011, 2:12 pm
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