Seniors First: Majority Passes Legislative Package Improving Quality Of Life For Seniors

The Senate Democratic Majority announced the passage of a comprehensive package of legislation expanding and increasing access to services for senior citizens. Included in this legislative package are bills to make thousands of seniors eligible for the EPIC program who were not previously, establish new safety procedures for seniors who disappear from care, simplify the renewal process for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program and expand the deadline for seniors to apply for property tax exemptions.
The historic expansion of EPIC eligibility will ease the financial burden for tens of thousands of seniors across New York who rely on costly prescription drugs. As drug costs have risen, they have become the largest single source of out of pocket healthcare costs for seniors.
After a lifetime of hard work and providing for their families, seniors citizens deserve fundamental protections and services in order to continue to lead healthy and active lives. As New York’s population ages, this becomes increasingly important. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008 an estimated 13.4 percent of New York’s population consisted of individuals age 65 or older.
This is part of the Democratic Majority’s commitment to providing for and protecting our senior citizen community. More reforms and services benefiting senior citizens have been passed since the Democrats took the majority than in the last several decades combined.
The plan includes:

  • Increasing eligibility levels for the EPIC program.
  • Creating a missing vulnerable adult alert system for New York State.
  • Authorizing the Office of Children and Family Services, in cooperation with the Office of the Aging, to track and report on the incidence of elder abuse.
  • Simplifying the renewal process for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program.
  • Expanding the deadline for seniors to apply for property tax exemption.

Senator Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) said, “As the Chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Aging and the Senate sponsor of several of these bills, I am pleased to have played a part in providing the necessary safeguards and improvements to many programs that older New Yorkers rely on, including SCRIE, NORCs and the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. I want to thank the advocates, especially my Aging Advisory Council, for their hard work on behalf of older New Yorkers.  I am also grateful to the other Senate sponsors for their concern and dedication, and to Conference Leader John Sampson and the Senate Majority for their efforts to protect and improve the lives of older New Yorkers by passing these bills.”
State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader Jeffrey D. Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) said, “By expanding EPIC eligibility, we will help thousands more older adults living on a fixed income gain access to life-saving prescription drugs. With the passage of my elder abuse bill, we require the state to track and report all instances of elder abuse, ensuring that New York’s seniors can live safely and with dignity.”
Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida) said, “Too many lives have been lost as a result of adults with cognitive impairment wandering from home. The Gold Alert puts their safety, and the peace of mind of their families, at the forefront.

Senator Craig M. Johnson, (D-Nassau) said, “My legislation would expand the opportunity for seniors to get the tax relief for which they are entitled. More needs to be done, but this package will help more seniors stay in their homes and in their communities.”
Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) said, “Senior citizens living on fixed incomes should not put their health a risk because they are too scared to turn on their air conditioners. This legislation would give seniors access to grants which would help them either buy air conditioners or pay their electric bills throughout the summer.”
Senator Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) said, "Our seniors are an important component to the makeup of our state. They often take part in our civics, veterans groups, and volunteer organizations.  They provide the community with the memories and knowledge needed to keep our cultural and social history alive. I was glad to be able to sponsor legislation that will foster the development of age-integrated communities. These types of developments are essential for building inter-generational relationships that are important to have between our seniors and the younger residents of our state."
Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson, “Protecting seniors is not only inherent in our Democratic values, it is incumbent upon our government to provide senior citizens with the care and services they rely on. Today, we are lowering drug costs, increasing safety and expanding resources that are vital to the independence and livelihood of our senior citizen community.”
Better Access, Better Care
S1839 / Klein:
·         Increases income eligibility levels in the EPIC program from $35,000 to
$50,000 for unmarried residents and from $50,000 to $75,000 for married residents.
S4981 / Foley:
·         Establishes model zoning and planning guidelines that foster age-integrated communities.
·         Allows accessory senior citizens units in areas zoned for single-family residences.
·         Allows for mixed use development accommodating senior citizens.
S2056B / Valesky:
·         Enacts a missing vulnerable adult alert system for New York State.
·         Defines a vulnerable person as a person with any cognitive impairment, mental disability, or brain disorder.
 S6853 / Diaz:
·         Simplifies the renewal process for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program by instituting a reminder mechanism.
·         Requires the appropriate agency to send a notice of required renewal 90 days prior to the application renewal date.
S5376A / Klein:
·         Authorizes the Office of Children and Family Services, in cooperation with the Office of the Aging, to track and report on the incidence of elder abuse.
·         Establishes a definition for elder abuse and the minimum age of an elderly person.
S7512A / Diaz:
·         Allows naturally occurring retirement communities to count in-kind contributions toward their required match of state funds.
S7513 / Diaz:
·         Allows NORCs to diversify their revenue sources by raising money outside of the NORC geographical boundary.
·         Allows naturally occurring retirement communities to raise matching funds from non-state sources and sources outside of the NORC supportive Services Boundary.
S2276 / Parker:
·         Allows qualifying low income families, people with disabilities and senior citizens to access grant money to buy air conditioners and / or pay for electric bills in the summer.
S7567 / Diaz:
·         Includes assisted living residences within the definition of long term care facilities for certain purposes.
·         Provides those in long term care with additional support by requiring these facilities to permit access to long term care ombudsman.
S7647 / Diaz:
·         Eliminates the requirement that an individual be over the age of 60 to qualify as a head of household for NORC supportive services.
S949 / Johnson:
·         Expands the deadline for seniors to apply for property tax exemption.
·         Requires each municipal corporation to send out a second copy of the notice of exemption 30 days prior to the filing deadline.
S8033 / Addabbo:
·         Increases absentee ballot voting options for individuals residing in nursing homes.
·         Requires election inspectors who go to nursing homes to bring additional absentee applications and materials with them.
Statements in Support of the Majority’s Legislative Package
Dennis Bozzi, President/CEO of the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (NYAHSA) said, “As the baby boomers begin entering their senior years it is more important than ever that the state begin developing the infrastructure that will allow people to “age in place” and remain independent as long as possible. NYAHSA applauds the State Senate for advancing this package of bills that will expand access to important programs like the NORC and provide consumer protections and financial support to seniors that will allow them to remain in the community as long as possible, delaying or eliminating their need to utilize institutional care.”
Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy, Council of Senior Centers and Services said, “ We applaud Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. for his strong leadership as the Chair of the Senate Aging Committee. This package of bills is intended to protect New York older adults. We also applaud Senator Diaz’s leadership on preventing damaging cuts to senior services.”
Mary Ann Malack-Ragona, Coalition President and Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association said, “The Coalition and its seven member chapters, thank the New York Senate for passing the Gold Alert legislation and taking this important step in protecting its residents. As the leading advocacy and support organization for Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association and this Coalition have actively pursued this legislation. Today, we are one step closer to providing greater piece of mind to the more than 320,000 New York families touched by this disease.”
Ann Marie Cook, President/CEO of  Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc. said, "I want to thank Senator Diaz for his stalwart support of older adults in New York State.  The package of bills he is putting forth, once again, shows his commitment to bettering the lives of persons who are aging throughout the State."
Nancy D. Miller, Executive Director/CEO of VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired said, “I strongly endorse the bills package that provides seniors, including those with disabilities, with increased access to needed services and supports. I commend the State Senate on their attention to the needs of New York's vulnerable elders.”
Suleika Cabrera-Drinane, Executive Director of the IPRHE/Hispanic Senior Action Council said, "I commend the Senate Majority on the historic passage of this legislative package. With this legislation, seniors will receive the care and support they need, which is especially important in these tough economic times."
Justin Cunningham, Executive Director for the Statewide Senior Action Council said, “The Members of New York Statewide Senior Action Council applaud the State Senate for moving forward on this comprehensive package of Pro-Senior bills. Each individual bill in its own way seeks to protect and maintain the health, safety and economic security of New York’s growing senior and elder population.” 
 Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) said, "Especially in these troubled economic times when budgets are being cut, it's essential that we preserve the essential services that vulnerable elders need, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults."
Catherine James, Executive Director for the Central New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association said, “On behalf of the Coalition of NYS Alzheimer’s Association Chapters, I wish to thank the New York Senate and Senator David Valesky for taking this important step in protecting residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  The passage of the Gold Alert bill has been a top priority for the Coalition.  We know that 6 in 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander from their homes during the course of the disease’s progression.  If an individual who wanders is not found within twenty four hours their chance of survival drops by 50%.  The creation of the Gold Alert system will help more than 320,000 New York families that are touched by Alzheimer’s disease.   I would like to personally thank Senator David Valesky for his tireless efforts to ensure that the Gold Alert has remained a priority in the Senate.”
Laura Cameron, Executive Director, NYS Association of Area Agencies on Aging said, “These bills lay a foundation of improved access to information and services for senior citizens and the increasing number of baby boomers reaching age 60. Census 2010 projects the age 60+ population at 3.65 million, or 18.7% of New York State’s population. This comprehensive package of bills is critically important to seniors because they would expand access to programs and services that enable them to live independently with dignity in their homes and communities.”

“This comprehensive package represents more than just legislation,” stated Lois Aronstein, AARP NY State Director.  “For seniors across the state, it represents quality of life and much needed support that will help them remain healthy and engaged in our communities.”