Open Letter To NYS Office For The Aging

Ruben Diaz

April 30, 2008

Michael J. Burgess, Director
New York State Office for the Aging
2 Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1251

Dear Director Burgess,

As you are undoubtedly aware, the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) has proposed a controversial series of initiatives to ostensibly ‘modernize’ New York City’s service delivery infrastructure for seniors.  We strongly believe that these initiatives are in fact reckless, and are likely to hurt large numbers of minority and low-income seniors.  The implementation of these reform measures--Meals-on-Wheels and Senior Centers especially--should be delayed until such time that DFTA can effectively demonstrate that any proposal will benefit, not harm, vulnerable seniors.

The proposed changes to the Meals-On-Wheels program have raised serious questions including skepticism that the cultural and ethnically diverse dietary needs of large service delivery areas will be adequately met, fear that seniors will be pressured to ‘choose’ the frozen meal option, and concerns regarding increased levels of isolation for seniors that select the frozen meal option.

Equally disconcerting is the possibility that many seniors may stop receiving services provided by senior centers due to closures.  Smaller organizations are apt to struggle to compete in any RFP process; those same organizations often run centers in poorer neighborhoods.  As is too often the case, poor and minority New Yorkers will unfairly shoulder the burden of shrinking budgets.  Services targeting minority and poor seniors should be a top priority of all Area Offices for the Aging.  Unfortunately, those are the very individuals that are most threatened by these initiatives.

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) announced at an NYS Assembly hearing on April 18, 2008 that DFTA would be required to submit an amendment to their annual plan that addresses the Meals-On-Wheels and Senior Center reform initiatives.  The amendment process is required to include public hearings to take place in each of the New York City boroughs.  The Older Americans Act, as well as NYSOFA’s Rules and Regulations, places a strong emphasis on the need to target minority and low-income older adults. NYSOFA will bear those requirements in mind during its final evaluation of the amended plan.

Director Burgess        

The amendment approval process will make it impossible for the plan to be approved by the scheduled date to release the Meals-On-Wheels RFPs; May 1, 2008.  Sections 6655.1, 6655.5 and 6655.7 of the Rules and Regulations that govern NYSOFA clearly state that only approved county plans are eligible for funding reimbursement from NYSOFA for Older American Act (OAA), Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) and  Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP) expenditures.  It is our position, therefore, that NYSOFA should halt funding to DFTA for these expenditures in the event that DFTA chooses to move forward with the implementation of unapproved plans.

We look forward to lending you our full support in this critical matter, and urge you to respond in a timely manner, as we remain...

Very Sincerely Yours,


Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz, Ranking Member              Senator Malcolm A. Smith 
Senate Standing Committee on the Aging                   Democratic Conference Leader