There is no doubt New York state is facing a fiscal crisis the likes of which we have not seen in decades. As a result, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a budget that includes drastic spending cuts. Having served as a member of the state Assembly for more than 15 years, I understand the need for the state to pass a balanced budget. But at the same time, there are some services that we cannot afford to lose and must find a way to pay for. Senior centers fall in that category.
Cuomo proposes to cut more than $25 million in Title XX funding. That reduction would lead to the closing of 80 to 110 senior centers in New York City. These centers are lifelines for thousands of New Yorkers. Social workers in senior centers help seniors get access to Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps and other critical benefits. Senior center programming creates social interaction that helps keep seniors mentally healthy. Senior centers provide influenza vaccines, blood pressure screenings and hearing tests. They serve more than 5,000 meals per day — sometimes to seniors who would otherwise go hungry.
City Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli has said that about 90 percent of people who visit senior centers are poor. The proposed cut would then hit the most vulnerable New Yorkers at a time when so many are already struggling because of the recession. Closing senior centers is an abominable way to balance the state budget.