This Friday, June 3 at 10am, hundreds of New York City’s senior citizens will converge at the Emigrant Savings Bank building at 49-51 Chambers Street for the New York City Council Committee on Aging public budget hearing. Seniors will speak on their own behalf and have a voice in their future as they oppose $39 million in devastating cuts to senior services. Faced with a budget deficit, but unwilling to raise taxes on millionaires, Mayor Bloomberg is willing to force the shutdown of 17 more senior centers citywide (in addition to the 26 senior centers closed in 2010) and significantly reduce services in the remaining centers. The cuts are in addition to $50 million the mayor already cut from the Department for the Aging over the past three years — a cumulative total of about $90 million, a whopping 50% budget cut to senior services.
The mayor’s shortsightedness will be hardest on our homebound elderly and could wind up costing more. The administration says it must cut services to save money, but objective analysis shows these cuts will likely cost taxpayers even more money. For example: When the city cuts home care services (costing approximately $13,000 per year) for a frail senior, taxpayers could end up paying $123,420 per year in Medicaid funds for her nursing home placement. Moreover, has anyone asked the mayor if the senior centers close, where will the seniors go? What will they eat? What of the social and emotional consequences that these closures will bring?
These centers are the homes and lifeblood for thousands of New York City’s senior citizens. They provide our aging population access to meals, health screenings, wellness activities, educational programs, socialization and opportunities for companionship. It is vital that these centers remain open and continue to get the funding needed to accommodate the current demand and future projected growth of the senior population. Now isn’t the time for shutting down senior centers especially in New York City – a city that has the largest and most diverse elderly population in the nation — an estimated 1.3 million seniors 60+.Moreover, the city is growing poorer, with one out of three of your elderly neighbors living on $10,000 a year or less – another reason why senior centers need to stay open.
The borough of Queens for example, is home to 375,000 seniors. Here’s what that $39 million in service cuts means for Queens’s seniors:
- A $4.5 million cut for 13 million senior meals annually. Consider that senior centers and meals-on-wheels are currently required to feed seniors on a budget of $2.20 a meal.
- A 30% cut in case management funding, which means 8,000 of the oldest, frailest homebound seniors — average age 85 — will lose the social workers that are their lifeline to everything from meals-on-wheels to transportation to the doctor to crisis intervention.
- Elimination of all funding for elder abuse victim services. Leaving this hidden crisis — 96 percent of the estimated 120,000 New York City cases of abuse go unreported — to grow even worse.
- Chopping senior center budgets by $20 million. Includes the closing of 17 senior centers citywide in addition to the 26 closed in 2010. As a result, the face-to-face social network for seniors — will shut their doors.
- Elimination of $4.1 million in borough president funds — resulting in even more closings of Queens’s senior centers and adult day care programs.
All this on top of earlier city budget cuts, including a cut of $10 million (40 %) to a program serving seniors just above the Medicaid poverty line, causing hundreds to lose part of their home care or be stuck on waiting lists.
This writer understands the need for fiscal discipline during these hard economic times. But why is it that the only people who are ‘not” being asked to share in the sacrifice are the hedge funds and Wall Street banks who took record bonuses and windfall profits this year (thank you taxpayer-financed bailout)? These are the institutions that are responsible for the current financial crisis, so you would expect that they would be part of the shared sacrifice solution. It is unacceptable that we only look to slash funding to essential city services asking teachers, firemen, policeman, and seniors to continue to sacrifice while Wall Street banks, large corporate, and the wealthy sit on stockpiles of cash and continue to receive tax breaks.
The human tragedy of budget cuts to senior services is heartbreaking. Mayor Bloomberg has referred to New York City as an age – friendly city so why not show it. Spare our seniors these devastating cuts to services so that they can stay in their homes without worrying about where their next meal will come from.
If you want your voice to be heard. This Friday, June 3 at 10am at the Emigrant Savings Bank building at 49-51 Chambers Street, New York City.