May 9, 2012

Assembly Passes Legislation to Improve Access to Vital Rent Assistance Programs for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities

Assembly Legislation Aims to Increase Access to
And Effectiveness of the SCRIE and DRIE Programs

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Aging Committee Chair Joan Millman, and Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez today announced the approval of a legislative package aimed at improving and increasing access to the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) Programs.

The legislation emerged from Assembly hearings co-chaired by Millman and Lopez late last year to examine how changes in the administration of the SCRIE program have created unintended consequences for seniors in New York City.

Silver noted that the legislation would also provide translation assistance to those with limited English proficiency and additional help for individuals with limitations such as deafness, blindness, a speech impediment, or a cognitive impairment (A.9213/Brook-Krasny).

"For low income seniors and individuals with disabilities living on fixed incomes, the SCRIE and DRIE programs offer an extremely important benefit that protects them from being priced out of their neighborhoods," said Silver. "Through the approval of this legislative package we will make necessary improvements to the application process to maintain the programs' effectiveness and ensure eligible seniors and individuals with disabilities can afford to remain in their homes and in their communities."

"Transferring the SCRIE program to the New York City Department of Finance has created a situation where applicants are currently waiting more than six months to receive any word on their applications," said Millman. "Flaws in the new application process have prevented eligible seniors and individuals with disabilities from receiving this important benefit and as a result have caused undue financial hardships to many seniors. This legislative package includes provisions that will make sure applications are processed in a timely fashion."

"It is unacceptable for those in need to be denied access to the SCRIE and DRIE programs because they cannot understand the application or cannot readily speak with agency staff," said Lopez. "Today, the Assembly Majority is taking a critical step to ensuring this important benefit is accessible to those who need it most by offering assistance with the application and recertification process in local senior centers, community board office, and community based non-for profits."

Included in the legislative package is a measure (A.9205) sponsored by Assemblywoman Millman, which would require municipalities that have the SCRIE and DRIE programs to conduct outreach in the community to ensure individuals who may be eligible are aware that they can apply for the benefit. The bill improves the application process and makes it more user-friendly by requiring municipalities to implement procedures to ensure the application is reviewed in a timely manner and by requiring a mechanism to be in place that allows applicants to check the status of their applications.

Other important reforms included in the legislative package would direct municipalities that administer the SCRIE and DRIE programs to: