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AARP New York to Lawmakers: Governor’s Budget Plan Falls Short in Addressing Needs of Older New Yorkers

Government Leaders Need to Ramp Up Response to a Rapidly Aging Population, State Director Beth Finkel Testifies at Hearing

ALBANY, N.Y. – With New York State’s population rapidly aging, government leaders need to plan accordingly and allocate adequate funding in response to the unique challenges facing older adults, from enhancing support of the family caregivers who ensure their loved ones can age in their own homes to strengthening an independent state watchdog program advocating for nursing home residents, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel testified today.

“The number of older New Yorkers is steadily increasing, and policies must change to address these demographic changes,” Finkel said in written testimony submitted for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee hearing on the human services budget proposal in Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget.

According to a recent report by the Center for an Urban Future, the number of New Yorkers 65 and older increased by more than 800,000 from 2011 to 2021, even as the under-65 population declined by nearly 445,000, Finkel told lawmakers.

“While the number of older people in the state is increasing, the economic well-being of these individuals is not increasing with it,” Finkel said. “People who have worked hard their entire lives are struggling to make ends meet and remain in their communities. Simply put, they deserve better.”

The Governor’s Executive Budget falls far short in several areas pertaining to New York’s older residents. For one, it doesn’t address a longstanding problem with programs that provide transportation, adult day care, and home-delivered meals to older New Yorkers, as well as offering respite for their family caregivers. Currently, over 16,000 individuals and their families statewide are waiting to receive those non-Medicaid home- or community-based services.

Finkel called on the Legislature to include in the state budget $42 million for the State Office for the Aging (SOFA) to get people off the waiting lists so they can receive the care they need, as well as restore $9.5 million that was included in last year’s SOFA budget but was omitted from the Governor’s proposal this year.

“This investment will result in savings of $237 million to the Medicaid program,” Finkel said. “To put this into perspective, the overall state budget is $233 billion. SOFA receives eight-tenths of one percent of the overall budget. This is insufficient to address the needs of our growing older adult population …”

Finkel also called on the Legislature to provide an additional $15 million in the state budget for the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which exists in SOFA. The program serves as the independent eyes and ears of thousands of older New Yorkers in nursing homes, assisted living and other licensed adult care homes. Additional funding is needed so more professional staff can conduct weekly visits to ensure all facilities can have a regular ombudsman presence, Finkel said.

She also stressed the need for the Legislature to take actions in the state budget that will bring down the ever-rising prescription drugs costs, which impact New York consumers both at the pharmacy counter and in their health plan premium bills. AARP New York supports several prescription drugs bills that were passed by the State Senate on Tuesday, along with legislation proposed by Senator Cordell Cleare that would allow New York State to create a pilot program to set upper payment limits for certain medication based on international prices of that drug.

Finkel also urged lawmakers to include in the state budget a requirement that certain state agencies establish a file match of participants in public assistance programs so that they can automatically be enrolled in federal programs for which they qualify.

“The Governor has proposed better benefits matching for women and children,” Finkel said. “We do not understand why older New Yorkers should have to wait any longer for the same thing.

Finkel testified a day after she and the leaders of two other aging advocacy organizations – Ann Marie Cook, President and CEO of Lifespan, and Allison Nickerson, Executive Director of LiveOn NY – sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie urging them to restore the SOFA funding left out of the Governor’s Executive Budget.

Referring to the Governor’s SOFA budget as “ageist,” the three advocacy leaders also asked that SOFA fulfill a requirement under state law to submit annual reports to the Legislature detailing on how funding was used to address waiting lists for SOFA services by county. So far, SOFA has failed to do so in the past five years.

Additionally, Finkel, Cook,and Nickerson asked the legislative leaders to ensure that $15 million be added to SOFA’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which serves as an independent oversight advocate for residents of nearly 1,400 nursing homes and other adult care facilities statewide and their families.

“We stand ready to work with you and your respective conferences to address the needs of older New Yorkers and their family caregivers while moving forward with a final budget that keeps older people in their homes and communities as long as possible,” the letter said.

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