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Op-ed: SCRIE and EPIC for thousands more New York seniors

 STATE SENATOR TOBY ANN STAVISKY

I am pleased to announce that starting this week, thousands more New Yorkers will be eligible for two state programs that help keep rent and prescription drugs affordable for senior citizens. The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exception (SCRIE) and Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) are designed to protect seniors on a fixed income from the steadily rising cost of rent and prescription drugs.

Expansions to EPIC took effect immediately after the budget was passed on April 1 and changes to SCRIE took effect on July 1. The new eligibility requirements are as follows:

To qualify for SCRIE, seniors must:
• Be 62 years or older
• Live in a rent-regulated apartment (rent stabilized, controlled or Mitchell-Lama)
• Be listed on the lease
• Currently pay or will pay with a lease renewal a rent that exceeds one-third of their income
• Have an income of $50,000 or less (increased from $29,000)

To qualify for EPIC, seniors must:
• Be 65 years or older
• Be enrolled in Medicare Part D
• For individuals, have a yearly income of $75,000 or less (increased from $35,000) and for couples, have a yearly income of $100,000 or less (increased from $50,000)

I am glad that my fellow legislators recognized the importance of these programs for thousands of seniors across New York State. This year’s budget marks the first time that SCRIE has been expanded since 2009 and the first expansion of EPIC since 2001.

The new income requirements are expected to cover over 10,000 more eligible seniors this year alone.

While I applaud these long overdue changes, I am concerned that for some, this might be too little too late. The affordability of rent and prescription drugs for seniors are too important to be held at the mercy of Albany’s political whims.

To avoid this annual battle, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 1218, which would peg the maximum income allowable to be eligible for SCRIE to reflect yearly increases in the regional Consumer Price Index. So as the cost of living for more senior citizens rise, so should the number of senior citizens eligible for this critical rent assistance. The same should be done for the maximum income requirement for EPIC.

Hopefully, these reforms will be enacted when the legislature returns to Albany in January. In the meantime, I encourage all senior citizens who are now newly eligible for SCRIE and EPIC to apply for the benefits.

For more information about both of these programs, including detailed eligibility requirements and applications, visit the New York City Department of Finance website for more information about SCRIE (www.nyc.gov/SCRIE) and the New York

Department of Health (www.health.ny.gov/health_care/epic/) for more information about EPIC. You may also contact my district office at 718-445-0004 or call 311.

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky represents Senate District 16, which includes Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Woodside, Electchester, Pomonok, Bayside and Rego Park. She is the assistant leader of the Democratic Conference and serves on the Committees on Aging and Finance.

 

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