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Queens Chronicle

No new budget cuts for seniors

Council funds still need to be restored

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Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:49 am, Thu May 17, 2012.

Seniors can breathe a sigh of relief — well, sort of.

Mayor Bloomberg released his fiscal year 2013 executive budget last week, and it does not call for the closure of any senior centers and will make only minor “back office” cuts to the city Department for the Aging, Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for the mayor said Monday, adding that those will have no impact on the services.

In years past, Bloomberg has proposed closing senior centers and slashing money out of DFTA’s budget, typically leading to older adults participating in protest events and the City Council eventually restoring the funding in what has become known as the budget dance.

“At the end of the day, we always lose something during the budget dance,” said Bobbi Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services. “The budget dance for seniors is like dancing in quicksand, and we can’t keep pace with the growing need. It makes things very difficult. The city is not moving in the right direction to support today’s seniors and baby boomers turning 65.”

This year, the council will have to replace $26 million using its discretionary funds in order for services to remain intact, according to Christopher Miller, a spokesman for DFTA. And it appears they plan to do just that, as many lawmakers joined senior advocates for a rally on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to demonstrate their support.

“We are very lucky and thankful that we will not be impacted by any budget reductions,” Miller said Wednesday. “We have no plans to close any senior centers.”

In fact, Miller noted that this year the Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center in Flushing and Services Now for Adult Persons in Queens Village received additional funding to enhance their programming and become two of eight “innovative” facilities citywide. In the coming months DFTA plans to either build or enhance two more senior centers in Brooklyn.

The money from the City Council would go to services like transportation, senior centers, naturally occurring retirement communities and elder abuse prevention.

The City Council fully restored case management for homebound elders in fiscal year 2011 — $6.6 million, according to the CSCS. In 2012, however, only $3 million was replaced — a 55 percent cut.

The organization is fighting to get back to the original funding level, calling it “a worthy investment to allow frail elders, living in isolation, to age in place with supportive services and dignity.” The CSCS says the cut has led to caseloads skyrocketing from 70 to 90 per case manager.

Some $2.3 million in funding, the entire budget for social adult day care, which consists of specialized programs for elders with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other disabilities, was eliminated, the CSCS says, and it is trying to get that back too. “While the service is critical for these elderly individuals, the hidden victims of this cut are the family caregivers who must work or need respite from the stress of caregiving,” the group says.

Sackman said over 300 seniors citywide have already met with 49 out of the 51 City Council members to show their support for restoring previously eliminated DFTA funding.

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