Budget Is Huge Win For Seniors Across New York

We did it! If you have not heard, the NY State Budget passed very early on April 1. And it’s a big win for seniors across the state of New York.

Over 15 million addition dollars have been added to the State Office for the Aging budget mainly to eliminate waitlists for services across New York. This funding will not be distributed by funding formula and will not require any local match.

Why is this important? Under the state funding formula, dollars are actually distributed based on the senior population. In addition under funding formula rules, the local government would have to contribute 25% of the funding. Instead the budget language distributes the funding according to identified needs, in other words, according to wait lists.

This means that instead of receiving $120,000 in additional funding, Chautauqua County will receive between $400,000.00 and $600,000.00 additional dollars to help people who are waiting for services!

As you may recall, the funding for senior services had dwindled since 2010 when our funds were dramatically cut as a result of the country’s financial crisis. Despite a growing senior population and the increased demand for home and community based services for older people, the funding has not grown significantly.

The services provided by OFA and our community partners help people stay in their homes through the end of life.

Recent studies have shown that it is more cost effective to keep people at home where they want to be rather than caring for them in assisted living and nursing homes. Unfortunately, when there is no funding to help pay for services, people go into nursing home prematurely.

OFA does not provide 24 hour care so there is still a need for nursing homes.

This funding will ensure that older adults who can manage at home with just a small amount of assistance (4-6 hours of aide service/week, an emergency response button, home delivered meals and adult day services) can stay in their homes a lot longer.

This funding would not have happened without a lot of effort on the part of seniors in our community. Thank you to everyone who wrote letters, showed up at our rallies and called the state legislators and the Governor’s office. Over 700 were sent from Chautauqua County alone and across the state thousands of letters were sent.

I know many of you were skeptical but it did make a difference. Many of you wrote stories on those letters of how our services are helping you live independently. That made a difference.

We took pictures of the United Senior Council and some new clients holding signs saying we can’t wait anymore. It made a difference. The local legislature with the county executive passed a resolution supporting the funding. It made a difference.

Then my Office for the Aging staff got the word out and encouraged people to go on our wait list so we had great statistical information to share about what happens to people when they are forced to wait for help. It all made a big difference.

I also have to thank Andy Goodell and former Senator Kathy Young for their ongoing support for older adults in our community. Thank you to George Borrello for helping and supporting my advocacy efforts on your behalf. Thank you to Governor Andrew Cuomo for naming NY an Age Friendly state and then backing up these words by this unprecedented increase in funding in his executive budget.

Thank you to my friend and colleague Greg Olson, the acting State Office for Aging Director, who I know worked tirelessly behind the scenes with his team and his co-workers in NYS DOH to show why this investment in older adults makes sense and will save money for New York.

Thank you to the Aging Committee chairs in the State Legislature, Senator May and Assemblyman Bronson who also worked very hard especially this last month to ensure this bill passed despite a number of obstacles thrown in their path.

Lastly, thank you to all our Association on Aging in NY members who pulled together to get the word out and especially Rebecca Marino, who worked tirelessly for the last several months.

I know in our current political environment older adults often feel like they don’t have a voice and no one cares about them. I hope the results highlighted above show you that older adults are very powerful people.

Through our combined efforts we were able to secure a lot of money that will help our friends, neighbors and family members live better lives and start to change the course of our state.

In every election statistic, the majority of voters are over the age of 60, so you are making the decisions about what happens in this country and locally. Don’t forget to vote. As far as wealth and buying power, older adults spend more than any other group on goods and services. This means you are the economic engine for our country, state and county, no matter your income.

Advertisers have not gotten this message yet but they’ll catch up eventually. The important thing is to keep voicing what we want and need for our community through voting and advocacy. As Barbara Mikulski said, “Each one of us can make a difference. Together we can make a change.”

I hope you will continue to reach out to me with your thoughts on how I can improve what we do through Office for the Aging to better serve the older population and please help us thank everyone involved in this budget advocacy effort.

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