The Financial Budget Says No!
New York City prides itself on being “Age Friendly”. The City boasts that it provides seniors with extended times for street crossings, has added more city benches for tired seniors, and has even designed age friendly sections of city parks. The preliminary New York City fiscal budget for senior services tells a different story. The 2017 fiscal budget for aging services was $330.8 million. This is less than 1% of the total city budget. In comparison, the 2017 budget for Youth & Community Services was $727.5 million, more than twice that of aging services. The preliminary budget for 2018 looks even less promising.
Every year the Department for the Aging (DFTA) develops a preliminary budget to fund essential senior services. These funds oversee the operation of senior centers, home delivered meals, social and legal services, home care, and case management. It also provides programs for the families of older adults by offering respite services and education.
For 2018 DFTA is requesting $306.4 million for these essential programs. Fifty-six percent or $171.8 million of these funds will go towards New York City’s 250 senior centers. These senior centers provide education programs, nutritional meals, health services, exercise programs, and recreational programs in community based settings. Next year another $1.6 million is being requested for a “sixth weekend congregate meal.” This extra meal will be given to seniors to take home for the weekend. It is often the only balanced meal some older people receive on Saturday and Sunday.
Other DFTA funds provide caregiver support programs, social work services, elder abuse assistance, and social day care services. Social day care services are day programs for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These programs offer activities tailored to people with dementia and respite services for the caregivers.
The fiscal budget for the Department for the Aging is derived from three major sources: the city, the state, and the federal government. The city contributes 62%, the state 14% and the federal government another 24%
Much of the state’s 14% funds come from a Title XX grant. This is a federal block grant that is provided to states to improve services to children, youth, families and vulnerable populations like seniors.
For the past several years, the New York State has allocated $17 million of their Title XX funds to support New York City senior centers. This year Governor Cuomo is considering taking away these funds and adding them to children’s services. If this happens, approximately 30% or 65 neighborhood senior centers will be forced to close. This will impact 6,000 seniors who will lose their local senior center and access to vital nutrition, socialization and health programs.
One of the most outspoken advocates for senior services is LiveOn NY a nonprofit advocacy organization for New York’s aging population. Founded in 1979, the organization is committed to insuring that New York City’s seniors receive adequate funding for services.
Ms. Bobbie Sackman, Associate Executive Director of Public Policy at LiveOn NY is one of their most outspoken advocates. Shortly after Governor Cuomo proposed cuts to city senior services, she organized a letter writing campaign urging older people to write him and request he reverse his decision. Within two weeks the Governor’s office received over 17,000 letters. Ms. Sackman has also organized campaigns that more than tripled city funding for elder abuse prevention services.
Seniors are the fastest growing population segment in New York City. It is estimated that by 2040 one in every five New Yorkers will be 60 years of age or older. Despite this burgeoning population, senior services are still considered of secondary importance. Individuals and eldercare advocacy organizations are a constant reminder of the need for these valuable services.