Guest Op-Ed: Ways to help seniors make ends meet

The Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, including myself, unveiled a report documenting the dramatic rising in living costs facing New York seniors and laying out concrete proposals to make New York more affordable for seniors and families.

All of the IDC’s proposals, signature issues in its Affordable NY policy agenda, were included in the one-house budget resolution that passed the chamber.

Among these is a major expansion of the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC) that assists more than 270,000 seniors to supplement out-of-pocket drug costs. Currently, EPIC is available to single seniors who earn up to $35,000, and married individuals with $50,000 in joint income.Under our plan, EPIC would expand to include individuals earning $75,000 and couples making $100,000. The proposal would also eliminate Social Security from eligibility determinations.

Also, according to New York City’s Housing Vacancy data, there are 90,000 older New Yorkers paying 40-50 percent or more of their income in rent. For that reason, we are proposing a $5 million expansion of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), increasing the income eligibility threshold to $50,000.

As the report illustrates, the rising costs of utility bills is rapidly making gas and electricity unaffordable for too many seniors. That is why we called for the creation of a Statewide Consumer Advocate Office to help protect seniors in rate proceedings and demand greater representation before the Public Service Commission.

According to a recent AARP survey, over a third of New Yorkers over 50 are providing or have provided care to a senior, with only 11 percent of the elderly receiving care in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. For New Yorkers who provide care for parents, grandparents or in-laws, the IDC has proposed to extend six weeks of Family Leave benefits to New Yorkers on a sliding scale, offering a replacement wage that would raise the maximum weekly benefit for individuals who cannot work.

In addition, the IDC is committed to including additional funding in this year’s budget for services under the Community Services for the Elderly program, fighting to include $5 million in additional funds for fiscal year 2014-15 year better to ensure seniors’ independence, protect taxpayer dollars, and ensure access to services.

We must take proactive steps to ensure that New York remains affordable for the individuals who helped shape our communities. The steps outlined in our Affordable NY plan are a win for all New Yorkers.

State Senator Diane Savino represents the 23rd District.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.