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Queens Chronicle

PRIME TIMES: 50 Plus Seniors hear latest on benefits

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Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014 4:35 pm | Updated: 4:39 pm, Mon Jun 30, 2014.

The Queens Interagency Council on Aging, or QICA, a senior advocacy group founded in 1971, held its annual town hall meeting at Queens Borough Hall on June 18, spreading news of improved benefits for those who qualify and eliciting concerns that participants would like to see covered in next year’s programs, beginning in the fall.

Many of the estimated 100 seniors in attendance seemed most excited to learn of the new income requirement for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, or SCRIE.

Those who are eligible see their rents frozen, avoiding most increases. Beginning July 1 of this year, the income limit was scheduled to increase from $29,000 to $50,000 per household.

To qualify, the rent must be more than one-third of the household income and the tenant of record must be 62 or older. The apartment must be rent-controlled, rent-stabilized or hotel-stabilized. There are other requirements, as well, which may be read at nyc.gov/scrie. Requests for copies of the guidelines may also be made by calling 311.

Miriam Burns, QICA legislative co-chairwoman, called SCRIE “one of the best benefits we have.” The changes, she said, “are going to make a big difference. Many people are eligible who don’t know it. People struggled who didn’t need to struggle.”

Also of interest were the increased income levels connected to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program, which provides seniors with co-payment assistance for Medicare Part D-covered prescription drugs after any Part D deductible is met.

Eligibility requirements include being a New York State resident, being 65 or older and, under the new guidelines, having an annual income of less than $75,000 for a single person and $100,000 for married couples. For more information, call EPIC at 1 (800) 332-3742.

In his opening remarks, QICA’s executive director, Bruce Cunningham, said, “We’ve been referred to as a grassroots organization. Your task is to engage us in issues you face daily.” And engage they did.

Following a year in which QICA held meetings on topics such as elder abuse, mental health in the golden years and lack of affordable housing for seniors, those in attendance requested more information on some of the same issues.

They indicated an interest in hearing more about affordable housing, as well as the following topics, among others:

• pop-up senior citizen centers, which suddenly appear out of nowhere and are said to frequently entice people into signing up for services they may not require;

• naturally occurring retirement communities;

• noise and other quality-of-life complaints;

• SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called the food stamp program;

• age discrimination in the job market;

• HIV programs for seniors;

• natural health; and

• emergency preparedness, particularly for seniors who live alone.

Borough President Melinda Katz offered greetings and brought some levity to the proceedings. Using the moment to tout her campaign to save the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, she asked, “How many people here went to the 1964 World’s Fair?” Many hands went up into the air. And then she elicited laughter when she asked, “How many people here went to the 1939 World’s Fair?” A still-sizable number of hands went up again.

For further information or to become involved with QICA, call (718) 268-5954 or email qicany@aol.com.

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