Assemblyman Dinowitz: “Assembly Budget Protects Seniors, Rejects Cuts to EPIC and Title XX”

The New York State Assembly unveiled it’s 2011 budget plan which included full funding restorations to two of the most vital programs for New York’s seniors, Title XX and EPIC.

As part of his Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo proposed drastic cuts to both programs: a $36 million dollar reduction in discretionary funding to Title XX, which the City claims would force 105 senior centers to close, and a $34 million dollar cut to EPIC, a program that currently provides over 300,000 enrollees with secondary coverage for prescription drugs.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), Chair of the Assembly Aging Committee, led the fight in the Assembly to have this essential funding restored. “While nothing is set in stone, this is an important step in making sure our final budget for 2011 isn’t a cold and callous one,” Assemblyman Dinowitz said. “I know we have a $10 billion budget deficit to close, but doing it on the backs of our seniors is unacceptable.”

Reductions in funding for both programs would be disastrous for thousands of New York seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes. As part of the governor’s plan, all EPIC enrollees would be forced to join a Medicare Part D plan, regardless of financial hardship. The Assembly’s proposal also continues the vital “wraparound” coverage for prescription drugs not covered by Medicare, as well as state payment assistance for Part D premiums and deductibles. Eliminating this aid could cost seniors up to $1,000 or more annually.

“This cut was short sighted, and we had to reverse it,” Assemblyman Dinowitz said. “We can’t put seniors in a position where they must choose between putting food on the table and the medicine they need. Our budget has to consider the fiscal challenges of our constituents just as much as the fiscal challenges of the state.”

The battle over Title XX funding was previously waged last year, when then Governor Paterson proposed a similar monetary reduction. After a furious campaign led by Assemblyman Dinowitz made clear the importance of this money, funding was restored first in the Assembly budget and then in the final budget. The Assemblyman hopes for a similar result this time around. This year’s funding was restored in the Assembly budget after Assemblyman Dinowitz sent a letter in February to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver signed by almost five dozen New York City Assembly Majority members strongly urging that this critical funding be restored.

Said Dinowitz, “As I’ve stated time and time again, our senior centers are vital to our neighborhoods’ quality of life, and shuttering them would be devastating to the seniors who rely on them. I will not rest until this funding is restored. WE CANNOT CLOSE SENIOR CENTERS!”