With Budget Deadline Looming, Advocates and City Council Members Call for Increase in Funding for Senior Services
New York, NY—The New York City senior population is growing rapidly, but the City has been steadily cutting funding for senior services, including home care services. Tens of thousands of New York City’s seniors are unable to access the home care they need to live with dignity.
City Council members, seniors, home care workers, and advocates came together on the steps of City Hall to call for the City Council and Mayor de Blasio to increase funding for senior services, including the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP), a vital program that provides home care to low-income seniors and undocumented seniors, and for case management.
“As the chair of the Subcommittee on Senior Centers and member of the Committee on Aging, I proudly stand in support of Caring Across Generations as we call for an increase in funding for case management and the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program,” said Council Member Paul Vallone. He continued, “We need to recognize the rapidly growing senior population and prepare to ensure that we can fund the critical programs they depend on. I thank the coalition of over 200 organizations of Caring Across Generations for all the work they do to support our seniors.”
Demand for home care in New York City is growing as Baby Boomers age and as life expectancy rises. Two-thirds of people over the age of 65 will need some form of long-term care at some point in their lives, and over 90 percent of aging New Yorkers would prefer to receive home-based care, instead of institutional care.
Council member Margaret Chin, Chair of the Aging Committee, said, “We want to build a city that is livable for seniors – a city where all New Yorkers can stay in their homes and age in place. To build that city, the City and State will need to begin to make a real investment in home care for seniors. There are tens of thousands of low- and moderate-income seniors in our city who are not eligible for Medicaid and who cannot afford vital home care services. We are calling today on the city and state to begin planning over the next few years for an expanded EISEP program that will cover some of the 77,000 more seniors who could benefit from the program.”
Although the senior population is growing rapidly, the City has cut back in recent years on programs that serve seniors. Advocates called for strengthening the EISEP program immediately before a City Council Aging Committee Executive Budget Hearing.
“New York City should care for seniors,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Senior Organizer with ALIGN. “Seniors make an important contribution to our communities, and they deserve to be able to retire and live in their homes with dignity.”
For low-income seniors, the recent budget cuts hit even harder. EISEP is a small program that meets a growing need. EISEP helps non-Medicaid-eligible low-income seniors 60 years and older—including those who are undocumented—pay for part-time home care services.
Current EISEP recipients like Keith Luke call the program a blessing. Keith was the primary caregiver for his mother, who was able to access professional home care services through EISEP as her health declined and Keith needed additional help. He remembered how valuable the program was, and applied himself years later after hip replacement surgery left him in pain and with limited mobility. He says, “It’s very good that we have this program in New York. If I had to pay, it would kill me.”
Lani Sanjek of New York Statewide Senior Action Council said, “The City and Mayor de Blasio should restore funding for this vital program that is withering away due to drastic cuts — services are shrinking as the needs are ballooning! Investing in more affordable home care is urgent and benefits low-income seniors who cannot access Medicaid, undocumented seniors, family caregivers, and home care workers, who earn a living wage working with EISEP clients.”
Since 2008, funding for EISEP has been cut, even as the number of eligible seniors has risen.
Rabbi Marcelo R. Bronstein of congregation B’nai Jeshurun said, “Members of our spiritual community are struggling to age in place with the dignity they deserve. A 92 year old, who has lived independently for as long as possible, should now be able to get the help she needs to remain in her home and maintain connections to her community and friends. It is the simple physical tasks of daily life that become too difficult to manage, and a program like EISEP that expands access to in-home care could make all the difference in the world to a senior without adequate means. As Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel said, ‘A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old.’ Far too many seniors in New York City are struggling and we can take steps to change this reality.”
The EISEP program reaches a very small portion of the seniors who could benefit from the program. EISEP serves fewer than 3,000 seniors with care needs; that is less than 4% of the 77,000 low-income seniors with care needs in the city.
EISEP provides living wage jobs to home care workers. Home care is the fastest growing occupation in New York City, but one of the lowest paid.
Nicole Nynaar is a home care worker and member of SEIU 1199 whose case is funded through EISEP. She said, “We know that home care services are much less expensive than the alternatives, and allow clients to remain in their homes with dignity and respect. New York City should expand cost effective programs like EISEP.” She continued, “Living wages are a good start, but we would like to see this work reimbursed at the higher Medicaid rate. Home care work is important and should have decent wages and benefits—no matter how it’s paid for.”
Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services, stated, “CSCS’ Age Equality Agenda is about older New Yorkers getting their fair share of city funding. Their numbers are growing rapidly, they are the backbones of families and communities, and they look to the city for supportive services to help them age with dignity.” She continued, “Case managers are the doorway to receiving home care and many other services vital to homebound elderly New Yorkers, but case management is grievously underfunded, resulting in long waiting lists and thousands of underserved seniors. CSCS calls upon both sides of City Hall to adequately fund case management and ensure that caseloads are capped at 60-65 and waiting lists are eliminated.”
With the New York City senior population projected to reach 1.4 million by 2030, close to one million New York City seniors could need home care. In addition to restoring recent cuts in funding, advocates are working with city and state officials on creating a longer-term plan for expanded and sustainable funding for home care to meet the growing need.
ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York’s mission is to create good jobs, vibrant communities, and an accountable democracy for all New Yorkers. Our work unites worker, community, and other allies to build a more just and sustainable New York. ALIGN was formed in April 2011 through the merger of New York Jobs and Justice and Urban Agenda. Visit www.ALIGNny.org for more information.
Caring Across Generations is a campaign for quality care and support, and a dignified quality of life for all Americans, across generations. The New York Care Council is building a coalition of community, worker, senior, faith-based, disability, policy and advocacy organizations and individuals committed to justice and dignity and for both caregivers and individuals receiving care. Visit www.caringacross.org for more information.