With budget season underway, various key services have been placed at risk and our senior centers are on top of its hit list – more than 100 centers could close due to the budget cuts.
According to Assemblymember Mike Miller of District 38, under Federal Title XX, $66 million is allocated to New York from the federal government for adult protective and domestic violence services, with a discretionary fund of $36 million and approximately $24 million of the fund spent on senior centers.
“In this year’s budget, Governor Cuomo is attempting to take the discretionary Title XX money and use it to cover other state expenditures unrelated to senior programs,” said Miller. “This will cost the seniors of New York City around $24 million in cuts.”
The centers provide the senior community with a place to go, a meal, a friendly setting, entertainment and exercise.
“For many seniors, the centers serve as their only lifeline to the outside world,” said State Senator Toby Stavisky. “The proposal to take federal money from the Department for the Aging would mean closing more than 100 of our senior centers, our senior citizens – the people who are clearly the most vulnerable, living with the highest rate of poverty.”
Miller indicated that in the excess of 100 senior centers being threatened with the budget cut, 19 of the centers are from Queens.
“They have already been consolidated and senior centers have to be accessible for the disabled, particularly in Queens,” noted Miller. “It’s a lot cheaper to have the program, than to have them institutionalized.”
“I think if 100 ultimately get cut, it will have a devastating impact on seniors who rely on the senior centers for meals, educational purposes, exercise activities, for friends and family,” said Leo Aspen, vice president of the Senior Communities Selfhelp Community Services, Inc. “They would certainly experience the loss.”
A place for peace of mind for some, such as Caridad Mak, president of the senior advisory council at Elmhurst-Jackson Heights Senior Center, who noted she just wants tranquility. Mak said, “There will be many sick in the hospital, but will the government be willing to pay for those costs?”
“To close some of the senior centers will be far for others and that is what Bloomberg does not see,” indicated Mak. “Since they want money, they want to take it away from the old – who do not have.”
According to Lucy Garcia, director of the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights Senior Center, the closing of the centers would mean the cutting of services for many who do not have the means.
“The food, assistance, and classes are all good, but what is terrible is that all those people will be left by themselves at home – the whole point is not to be left alone,” said Garcia. “The seniors deserve respect which they have given us and I think we who will be walking in the same path to one day be in their places, should have the right to take care of them.”
“It is time to stop playing games with services to our senior citizens,” noted Miller. “Mandate Title XX money for seniors so we can finally give our seniors the peace of mind they deserve.”