Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Aging Committee, today announced the Assembly's State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2018-19 Budget includes important investments in senior housing and health care, as well as the creation of the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate to help vulnerable seniors living on fixed incomes.
"Today, New Yorkers are living longer than ever before, making investments in programs to support seniors a top priority," said Speaker Heastie. "Seniors are integral parts of our communities and the Assembly Majority is dedicated to ensuring that they have the resources they need to continue living independently and with dignity."
"Given our state's large aging population, it's important that we make investments to help our seniors age in place," said Assemblywoman Lupardo. "The Assembly Majority's budget provides funding for critical programs and services older New Yorkers rely on."
"New York's seniors who are living on a fixed income shouldn't have to choose between paying their utility bill or buying groceries," said Assemblymember Matthew Titone, chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection. "The funding in this budget for the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate will amplify the voice of the consumer and push the government agencies responsible for overseeing utility companies to do a better job focusing on fairness to ratepayers."
As the baby boomer population has aged, New York State's older population has grown, and will continue to grow significantly. By the year 2025, it is estimated that the state's older population will comprise nearly a quarter of the state's total population, making these services and programs increasingly more critical.
Health Care and Aging Programs
The SFY 2018-19 Budget also seeks to address the high health care costs that seniors often face in New York. The proposal includes much needed resources to offset these expenses and preserve access to long-term care. The Assembly budget provides more than $2 million in critical restorations to aging programs. These funds will ensure services are available to help seniors remain in the community. It also includes $7.8 million to maintain the right of spousal refusal.
The Assembly provides an additional $2 million in the SFY 2018-2019 budget to support the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) and Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NNORC). The provision also allows the Office for the Aging to expend last year's $2 million Mortgage Insurance Fund (MIF) allocation, which brings total additional funding for the programs to $4 million. NORCs and Neighborhood NORCs provide services to help participants arrange healthcare management, including planning, case assistance, benefit application assistance, linking residents with in-home and prevention services, healthcare screenings and other services.
The Assembly budget also provides $20 million in capital funding to support the establishment of 1,000 new assisted living program beds in underserved areas. The proposal funds $29.4 million, restoring a cut of $500,000 the Executive Budget advanced, for the Community Services for the Elderly program which provides personal care, home delivered meals, transportation, senior centers and other important services.
The Assembly also provides a restoration of $3.35 million to the New York Connects program, which provides free, unbiased information about long term services and supports to those in need of such services as well as their families and caregivers.
Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate
Unexpected or excessive increases in utility rates can be particularly burdensome for seniors living on fixed incomes. The Assembly's spending plan takes measures to protect seniors and other New Yorkers from unscrupulous practices by investing $350,000 to create the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate. This office would represent the interests of residential consumers in any matters substantially affecting the rates, charges, or terms and conditions of service in any utility proceeding at the state or federal level and would build upon a significant increase the budget also includes for utility oversight by the Department of State. The budget also includes $1 million in funding for organizations that advocate on behalf of consumers regarding utility cases before the Public Service Commission.