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Hochul Releases Proposed Budget That Is Insulting To Elderly New Yorkers

New York state Gov. Kathy Hochul recently released a proposed budget that is frankly a slap in the face to Older New Yorkers. Despite headlines claiming New York as the first “Age Friendly State” in the nation and initiatives like Age-Friendly Health Systems and a Master Plan on Aging for NY, the governor is cutting funding to aging programs that currently can’t meet the needs of Older New Yorkers.

It seems that the governor has forgotten about millions of older adults living in the state and the caregivers that provide essential services to them.

Here are some statistics you should be aware of: There are approximately 20 million people currently in the state. Of those 20 million, nearly 9 million (nearly half) are either over age 60 or a caregiver of someone over 60 or disabled. The entire New York State Office for Aging (NYSOFA) budget is approximately $200 million (that’s million with an ‘M’) while the entire state overall budget for the coming year will be $229 billion (that’s billion with a “B”). So, the entire NYSOFA budget is less than one-10th of 1 percent of the overall state budget for the year

This is insulting when you consider that Older New Yorkers pay $72 billion per year in state and local taxes and yet, only receive 0.08% of state funding for vital services that are necessary to help keep them in their homes as they age. Lately we are hearing a lot of talk about “equity” but where is the “equity” for older adults who need services to stay in their homes and contribute so much to New York’s economy.

The number of older adults in New York has grown 21% between 2011 and 2021 yet funding by the state has not kept pace with this growth. So, wait lists have developed for essential services like such as comprehensive case management, personal care, home-delivered meals, transportation and many other services that enable older adults to stay in their home and avoid costly skilled nursing or assisted-living services.

Currently there are more than 18,000 older adults on waitlists for aging services in New York state, close to 400 in Chautauqua County alone. That number will continue to grow with the proposed cuts in the state budget and every day that there is not sufficient funding allocated. It has been proven repeatedly that while some people need facility care, most can be maintained in their own homes with far less expensive community-based services provided by NYSOFA’s county-based Offices for Aging like ours.

Fully funding NYSOFA’s services makes sense for many reasons. Economically, these community-based services are the right choice because they can be provided for pennies-on-the-dollar in the person’s home versus costly facility care. Most people in aging homecare programs average less than $10,000 per year, while the state Medicaid pays over $100,000 per year for people placed in nursing homes.

Older adults overwhelmingly would rather stay in their home, but if there is no funding for these essential services then they have no choice. Nursing homes, like Lutheran Social Services, are already starting to close due to state Medicaid not paying them sufficiently. Who then will help our oldest residents when they need care?

Assemblyman Ron Kim, who leads the state Assembly Committee on Aging, recently stated, “For every dollar invested into NYSOFA programs, state saves nearly $8 in Medicaid spending on the backend.” It seems obvious that it would make sense to fully fund these programs.

The governor has indicated that there is no additional funding available in her budget for aging services, so what then did she fund? There are 1.1 million young adults (not all NYers) in the higher education system, yet there was $2.4 Billion in new capital funding and $ 381 Million in operating support for SUNY and CUNY. The budget also includes $100 million for swimming pools, $200 million to improve parks and $100 million for the park system to celebrate their 100th anniversary and to renovate a bathhouse at Jones Beach. Most of these new additions to the budget are more than double the total Aging Budget. These are only some examples of inequity and ageism in the Governor’s budget.

As a response to the Governor’s budget, more than 200 organizations throughout New York state are pushing the Governor to reassess her priorities and double the state’s budget for aging services by $250 million. This increase can help meet the demand for services and give all older adults in NY the option to access services in their home when they need them.

But we can’t change the Governor’s mind without your help. Please call or write Governor Hochul at NYS Capitol Building, Albany NY 12224 or (518) 474-8390 tell her to make older Adults a priority in the 2024 Budget. For more information about the Services available in Chautauqua County contact the NY Connects Helpline at (716) 753-4582.

Mary Ann Spanos is director of the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging.

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