Winter 2006 • New York’s 66th Assembly District In Action • ISSUE 36
First of all, let me wish you a belated happy and healthy new year. This newsletter provides information on various programs that may be of assistance to you, or someone you know. I believe it is part of my job to make the public aware of programs that can help them and their families.
Here in Albany, we are embarking on the annual budget process that will ultimately put into monetary terms our state’s priorities. While the courts determined, some years ago, that our educational system was plagued by an inequitable funding formula, we have yet to see a gubernatorial remedy to this basic problem. It is crucial for this budget to adequately address a down payment toward the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Nationally, and here in New York, there has been debate about the cost of many entitlement programs, as if there is inherently something wrong with the notion of a guaranteed program.
I believe it is imperative for us to review the entire array of government spending to decide where our resources are best spent. While Social Security and Medicare may be entitlement programs, they have been essential to ensuring that seniors can live in dignity, and not in poverty. The same can be said of other popular programs like TAP, the tuition assistance program, which helps students pay for college. But how do we define the wide assortment of tax abatement and tax credits offered to large commercial enterprises?
These credits and abatements are expenditures and many have come to be viewed as entitlements by some in the development community. Recent revelations that the 9/11 small business loans went to companies all over the country, and only 10% here in New York, shocked many of us who knew the desperate need here. To add insult to injury, it now appears that many loans went to major companies or their subsidiaries.
As we address this year’s budget, New York has a budget surplus. Do we spend the surplus by eliminating the estate tax as the Governor proposes, or do we fund child care assistance for struggling families so they can continue to work? Is it appropriate to institute a thinly-veiled voucher program for private and parochial schools, designed as a tax credit, or do we use those resources to finally establish a significant down payment for public schools to address the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision? These are the questions we will be facing over the next two months. I invite you to follow the budget discussions and weigh in with your own thoughts.
|Assemblymember Glick meets with representatives of the Sol Goldman Y to review their newly-upgraded fitness center. The Assemblymember provided some funding for the purchase of new athletic equipment for the center.|
The New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit:
It is regrettable that the great promise of prescription drug coverage for seniors has been so poorly constructed. Already, the early implementation of Part D has been plagued with administrative and bureaucratic problems, causing wrongful denials of essential prescriptions for individuals who previously had Medicaid coverage. I have sponsored legislation in the Assembly that would immediately address this crisis and am glad to announce that it has passed our house. I am hopeful that the Senate will also pass this vital piece of legislation so we may ensure essential medications remain available to New York’s most vulnerable population.
The confusion we all feel about Medicare Part D will hopefully lead Congress to revisit this issue and provide seniors with a user friendly program, not one created by lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry. In an attempt to assist you in understanding the very complicated Medicare Part D plan that currently exists, I am sharing some basic information with you below. I hope you find it helpful in deciding which, if any, of the new Medicare Part D plans best meets your prescription needs.
On January 1, 2006, the new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (Part D) went into effect. The new benefit offers beneficiaries of Medicare Part A and/or Part B the option of adding a Part D prescription drug benefit to their plan. These plans are offered through private insurance companies and vary as to the drugs they cover and the pharmacies that participate. Unless you currently have Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or are enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), enrollment in Medicare Part D is not mandatory and some individuals may find that their current prescription coverage better meets their needs than any of the Part D plans. In this instance, or if individuals are satisfied with their current prescription coverage, they need not enroll in a Part D plan.
The initial enrollment period for Medicare Part D is currently underway and will continue until May 15, 2006. If you do not enroll by this date, you may need to wait until the next coordinated enrollment period to apply, which will be November 15 - December 31 of every year beginning in 2006. Depending on whether you currently have prescription drug coverage that is “creditable,” you may be required to pay a small penalty for applying after May 15, 2006.
Creditable coverage is coverage that the Federal government deems just as good or better than Medicare Part D coverage. Each year, plans will be reassessed as to their credibility. Creditable plans for 2006 include the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC) and Veterans’ Affairs (VA) benefits. If you currently have prescription coverage, you should have already received a letter from that program informing you whether your coverage is considered creditable. If you did not receive this information or would like a further explanation, you should contact your insurance company. The enrollment periods are as follows:
Program fees for Medicare Part D plans are similar in structure to other private plans. All Part D plans will charge a monthly premium which can automatically be deducted from your Social Security check or paid directly to the plan. Costs for plans vary, but certain fees cannot exceed amounts set by Medicare. In addition, most plans will require a deductible and copayment. A general overview of these costs is listed below and can help guide you in comparing any current insurance you have with the array of Part D plans.
To find detailed information on programs offered in New York City, including costs and covered drugs/pharmacies, you can use the Medicare and You 2006 handbook, which should have been mailed to your home prior to the New Year. You may also call 1-800-MEDICARE or go online to www.medicare.gov. This website allows you to compare different plans and look up which plans cover your prescriptions.
Additional Prescription Assistance for
Extra Help Program
Individuals who currently receive Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), or otherwise meet income eligibility requirements could significantly reduce the costs of their Part D plans with Medicare’s Extra Help program. Eligibility and benefit rules are summarized below:
Please note that only individuals who receive Medicaid, SSI or are enrolled in a MSP will be automatically enrolled in the Extra Help Program. If you do not fall into this category, you must apply for Extra Help through your local Medicaid office or the Social Security Administration (SSA). Your Medicaid office may require additional paperwork and an in-person interview since they are required to screen you to see if you qualify for other benefits such as Food Stamps. If you do not wish to be screened for additional benefits, I recommend that you apply through the SSA, which will most likely be an easier process. You may apply online at www.ssa.gov, over the phone at 800-772-1213 or fill out and mail a paper application. If you would like assistance with applying for Extra Help or have any additional questions about the program, you may contact the RxLINCS hotline at 888-795-4627.
If you find that your prescriptions are not covered by plan formularies or you cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with your plan, there are “wrap-around programs” that can be used in combination with Medicare Part D to fill in the coverage gaps in your Part D plan. These wrap-around programs include the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC), AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and certain types of employer retiree benefits. Contact each program to see which you may be eligible for and which would work best for you.
For More Information or Assistance with Medicare Part D
Problems applying for drug coverage or questions about Part D:
|Assemblymember Glick speaks at a rally in support of a woman’s right to choose.|
Rent Assistance Now Available
I am proud to have co-sponsored the legislation which enabled the City to implement a Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program. Disabled New Yorkers, many of whom are low-income, must be able to stay in their homes. DRIE helps achieve this goal by protecting disabled renters from rent increases. Modeled after the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, DRIE freezes rents for eligible individuals living in rent stabilized, rent controlled or Mitchell-Lama homes. Landlords then receive tax rebates and abatements to make up for this lost income. Thanks to the activism of advocates for the disabled, New York City began implementing the DRIE program in October 2005.
DRIE is available to disabled persons receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplementary Security Insurance, or veteran disability pensions or compensation. To be eligible, individuals must also have a yearly income of less than $17,580 for individuals and $25,212 for a household with two or more members. In addition, applicants’ rents must consume at least one third of their disposable income.
A rent increase exemption is also available for low-income senior citizens living in rent stabilized, rent controlled and Mitchell-Lama homes. Like DRIE, SCRIE freezes rents for eligible individuals living in rent stabilized, rent controlled or Mitchell-Lama homes. SCRIE is available to individuals over 62 years of age or households headed by an individual 62 years of age or older. SCRIE is only available to households whose total income after taxes is $25,000 or less and whose rent consumes one third or more of the household income.
If you believe that you qualify for DRIE or SCRIE, I urge you to apply for the program. Note that income requirements for both DRIE and SCRIE measure income and not assets, so you may qualify even if you have saved money. You can obtain an application to DRIE online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dof/html/property/property_tax_reduc_drie.shtml or a SCRIE application at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/pdf/scrie.pdf. You may also call my office at (212) 674-5153 to request that a copy of either application be mailed to you.
Prepare for Tax Season
Tax season can be a confusing and financially stressful time for many people, especially those who are low-income. While there are resources available to assist low-income individuals, there are also traps which can cause people to fall deeper into debt.
Beware of Refund Anticipation Loans
The availability of electronic filing and direct deposit now allows most individuals to receive their refund in just a few weeks. Still many tax preparation companies continue to aggressively market their Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs), which provide tax filers with all or part of their tax refund in a few days. What people may not realize is that RALs are not tax refunds–they are high-cost, short-term loans that are repaid from a person’s tax refund. The often exorbitant fees charged for RALs results in an interest rate that averages 222 percent. Further, if the IRS denies part of a refund for any reason, the interest on the tax filer’s RAL continues to accrue, possibly placing the individual in great debt. I urge you to think twice before taking a RAL; these are very high costs for the ability to receive your tax refund just a few weeks early.
The Earned Income Tax Credit provides City, State and Federal tax credits or cash refunds to low-income working individuals and families. Maximum income limits begin at $11,750 for a single adult to $37,263 for a married couple with more than one child who jointly file their taxes. Refunds average $2,355 to qualifying households. Unfortunately, each year, approximately 230,000 eligible New Yorkers do not file for the EITC. To find out more about EITC, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/dca.
Free Tax Filing Assistance
A number of organizations offer free tax filing assistance to individuals who need help in filing their taxes or applying for the EITC but are unable to pay for the services of a professional tax preparer. Most of these organizations serve individuals with maximum annual incomes of $40,000 for individuals with children or $20,000 for individuals without children. My office has compiled a list of these organizations– just call my office at (212) 674-5153, and we will gladly send you a copy. Note that many people seek to take advantage of these services and resources may be scarce. Therefore, I encourage you to plan early and seek assistance as soon as possible.
Watch Me On Cable TV
After many years of the Assembly pressing for televised legislative proceedings, we have finally reached an agreement with the Senate, allowing constituents to view Legislative proceedings on cable television without traveling to Albany. While Assembly broadcasts have been available on the internet since 2001, making them available on cable television will make them accessible to an even greater number of constituents. Now constituents can just turn on Time Warner Cable System Channel 159 and have a front-row seat at legislative sessions, budget hearings and conference committee meetings.
Stay Warm This Winter
The City has designated the period between October 1st and May 31st as “heat season” During “heat season” landlords have to meet certain requirements to ensure that they provide adequate heat.
Between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, if the outside temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside temperature must be 68 degrees Fahrenheit;
Between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the outside temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature indoors must be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
With home energy costs rising, some landlords may try to save money by providing inadequate heat. If your apartment is cold, or if you do not have hot water, you should immediately call your landlord, building owner, managing agent or superintendent. If they are not responsive, you can file a complaint with the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development by calling 311.
In addition, financial assistance is available to help low-income renters and homeowners pay their home energy bills. The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides cash grants to needy New Yorkers to pay their heat and electricity bills. Applications are available by calling (800) 692-0557. With home energy costs rising, the demand for HEAP assistance will certainly be even greater this year than last. For this reason, I cosponsored a measure that was just signed into law and will provide an additional $100 million for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) so that the program can help even more New Yorkers this year.
Community Resource: Center for Worker Education
For the past 25 years, The City College Center for Worker Education (CWE) has provided a liberal arts education and a City College bachelors degree to working adults with a GED or High School diploma and the dream of going to college. Designed for individuals aged 25 years and older, the program serves those who, because of income, work and family responsibilities, or other life circumstances, were unable to go to college when they were younger and found it difficult to find a place really suited to their needs as working adults. Today, the Center provides a truly accessible higher education to approximately 800 adults, whether they are employed, unemployed, retired, or self-employed. All are welcome!
CWE offers a range of classes after work and on Saturdays in one Downtown Manhattan location. In addition to a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education, students may earn an interdisciplinary Bachelors of Arts degree in liberal arts and science with a concentration in areas such as public administration, human services, communications, literature and labor studies.
For more information, you may visit CWE’s website at www.ccny.cuny.edu/cwe or attend an upcoming admissions workshop. Workshops will be held at CWE, 99 Hudson Street (between Franklin and Harrison Streets), 7th Floor, Manhattan on Wednesday, March 1st at 6 p.m. and Thursday, March 23rd at 6 p.m. To register for an admissions workshop or find out more about the Center, call Dr. Judy Hilkey at (212) 925-6625 ext. 243.
|Assemblymember Glick and Jeanine Flaherty, Chair of the Jefferson Market Garden, admire the new historic streetlamp at the garden’s entrance. The light was installed as part of the Assemblymember’s continuing effort to direct multimodal funds toward local lighting projects that enhance the historic character of our neighborhoods.|
Sign-up for Monthly Neighborhood Reports
Each month, my office writes a report updating local Community Board members about my views and actions on important local issues. For constituents who do not attend Community Board meetings, these reports may be helpful in keeping you informed about local issues and understanding how my office is active on these issues.
Beginning in February, my office will be able to email Neighborhood Reports for Village/SoHo, Lower East Side/East Village or Lower Manhattan to interested constituents. For those without access to email, we can mail this monthly report to your home. Just call or email my office and we will be happy to put you on our list to receive a monthly Neighborhood Report.
Parking Calendars Are In!
Parking in the city is often confusing. Beyond the challenge of decoding “no parking” signs, it is difficult to keep track of alternate side of the street parking regulations. To help you remember when you have a much-needed break from moving your car, I have printed calendars listing the days on which alternate side parking is suspended. If you would like us to mail you a copy, please contact my office via telephone at (212) 674-5153 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.