AARP: NYS Assembly on the Mark with Utility Watchdog in Budget Proposal
Association Praises Assembly Proposal for Independent Utility Consumer Advocate, Warns Lack of Action to Help Family Caregivers Could Lead to Disaster
Statement by AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel
“AARP thanks Assembly Speaker Silver and Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz for taking a major step toward protecting New York’s overburdened residential utility ratepayers by including a strong and independent utility consumer advocate in their state budget proposal
“New York is home to some of the highest residential electric rates in the nation, yet we’re one of just 10 states without an independent and meaningful voice protecting residential ratepayers.
“We don’t think that high rates and the lack of consumer representation is a coincidence, and AARP believes the Assembly’s proposal would level a playing field currently tilted too much in favor of utility companies that spare little expense in pressing for rate hikes – expenses they pass on to the ratepayers themselves.
“By giving New York’s utility consumer advocate the independence to pursue the best course for ratepayers and providing the power to sue over unfair rate hikes, the Assembly’s plan would be a game-changer when rate hikes go before regulators.
“AARP would like to commend the leadership of Senator Klein, the head of the Independent Democratic Conference, for spearheading the need for an independent consumer advocate in the New York State Senate.
“AARP is strongly urging the Senate Republicans and Governor Cuomo – whose own Moreland Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response recommended an independent utility consumer advocate (pages 44-46) – to recognize the need to level the playing field and give consumers a voice.
“AARP appreciates that the Assembly provided an additional $1 million dollars for community based services in their one-house budget but is disappointed because it will not go far to help overwhelmed family caregivers keep pace with growing demand resulting from an aging population.
“The lack of any substantial increase in funding for non-Medicaid, in-home services for the elderly will do little to assist family caregivers struggling to help our frail elderly parents, spouses and loved ones age with the independence and dignity they deserve in their own homes.
“And it may well drive up taxpayer costs for Medicaid-funded nursing homes, which is often where burned out caregivers – who provide care valued at $32 billion annually – must send their loved ones when they lack sufficient supports to provide the care themselves.
"This issue is not going away, as our population ages and more frail elderly need care from fewer potential caregivers. With New York already 48th in state support for family caregivers, the Governor and lawmakers will have to address the issue sooner or later. The sooner they do, the more likely New York can prevent what’s now a crisis from becoming a full-blown disaster.
“There are other ways the state can help family caregivers cope with the often difficult and challenging tasks required in taking care of a frail loved one at home, and we will work with Governor Cuomo and our legislators in the coming months to ensure caregivers are better equipped for the job.”
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