Governor’s Budget Cuts Senior Services Funding


Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Office for the Aging

The Chautauqua County Office for the Aging (OFA) is joining the Association on Aging in New York and other Area Agencies on Aging across the state for the “Step Up for Seniors” initiative. This initiative brings together seniors so they can show state elected leaders their support for senior program funding.

“New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced his intention to make New York State ‘Aging Friendly,'” said Dr. Mary Ann Spanos, Chautauqua County OFA Director. “But with the submission of his proposed budget for 2017-2018, senior residents of Chautauqua County and across the state are getting the opposite message.”

Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget shows severe cuts and shifts in funding to Aging Services programs at a time when over 15,000 seniors across New York State are waiting for services. Instead of funding increases for senior services such as home care, personal care, home delivered meals, adult day care services, health insurance counseling, and transportation, the Governor’s proposal cuts approximately $12.6 million from the 2017-18 annual budget for the State Office for Aging. In addition, changes in Title XX funding of the social services block grant put 65 senior centers in New York City alone at risk for closing.

The continued growth of the state’s senior population due to the baby boomers reaching 65 continues to exceed national averages. Seniors of New York State now have to be concerned about the welfare of their current program funding, which they themselves financially support in
part or entirely. In addition, they must be concerned about the ever increasing waiting list of seniors who need services in their homes but are not being addressed at all in this current budget funding. With the growing aging population, attention needs to be focused on current needs to help seniors age in place and future programs that will allow seniors to remain in their homes, support their local economy, and live a long, happy life.

A few of the Governor’s proposed budget items would affect Chautauqua County in a very big way.

1. The governor’s proposal will change the Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) program, removing the 25 percent county share exemption. Removal of this waiver is a cost shift to local governments who are already constrained under the property tax cap. This would put the burden of needing additional local Chautauqua County tax dollars to maintain current services for local seniors and would not address the more than 500 seniors currently on a waiting list for services.

From April 2016 to December 2016, approximately 4,832 Chautauqua County seniors received some kind of OFA services provided in part through CSE or other Aging Services funding which may now be decreased significantly.

2. The governor’s proposal consolidates transportation funding within the CSE program, moving the transportation funding into the CSE funding line which now subjects all of the transportation funding to the need for local matching funds, putting these critical services in jeopardy. Public transportation is already very limited in rural areas like ours in Chautauqua County. This funding change may make it more difficult for seniors to use public transportation to get to medical appointments, shopping and other critical services.

There are already over 15,000 older adults statewide on waiting lists for critical community based aging services. Because lengthy waiting lists already exist and will grow as a result of demand, it is outrageous that the budget proposes cuts and cost shifts that put funding for seniors in jeopardy.

3. The governor’s proposal eliminates core funding to NY Connects and will shift NY Connects from the State Office for the Aging budget and put it under the Department of Health Medicaid cap. There is no designation under the Department of Health budget that NY Connects will continue.

The Office for Aging has spent the last 10 years promoting NY Connects as the “No Wrong Door” for all aging and long term care services and supports. In Chautauqua County, more than 4,000 people each year contact NY Connects for information and referrals for services for themselves or their loved ones, eliminating the frustration many people have had in calling several places for information they need.

This break-through program has provided a “one stop shop” for individuals needing information and assistance and is now in jeopardy of being eliminated due to funding cuts in the Governor’s budget.

For the Step Up for Seniors initiative, each county is asking their seniors to attend mock rallies in their counties, sign petitions and write letters to the Governor and their state legislators NOW!

Seniors in Chautauqua County have several opportunities to participate in a Step Up for Seniors mock rally. Rallies will be held on:

February 21

  • At 10:30 a.m. at the Dunkirk Adult Day Center, 733 Central Ave., Dunkirk, NY 14048
  • At 12:30 p.m. at Westfield Adult Day Care (YMCA)and Dining Site, 58 South Portage St., Westfield, NY 14787
  • At 3 p.m. at Frewsburg Rest Home, 106 W. Main St. Frewsburg, NY 14063.

February 22

  • At 11 a.m. at the Taft Center, 663 Lakeview Ave., Jamestown, NY 14701.

February 24

  • At 11 a.m. at Joseph Steger Apartments, 15 North Main St., Dunkirk, NY 14048.

Seniors are asked to wear red at the rallies. A group photo will be taken of the seniors holding signs showing support of senior program funding. These photos and signed petitions will be sent to all the state legislators and Governor Cuomo prior to the beginning of the public hearings on the budget.

“Seniors need to step up and let our elected officials know that their support is needed for the future of senior services,” Dr. Spanos said.

For more information on any of the Chautauqua County Step Up for Seniors mock rallies, or for information on the Governor’s proposed budget, contact the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging at (716) 753-4582.