Funding to meet basic needs, remain in homes and communities, slow spread of COVID-19
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced about $149 million in federal aid has been distributed to counties statewide to help older New Yorkers meet basic needs, remain in their homes and communities, slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and get vaccinated. Of that total, nearly $11.5 million is headed to Western New York.
A press release stated, “The decision comes in recognition of the enormous economic and social contributions that older adults make to our communities and families. This support funding exemplifies New York's distinction as the first age-friendly state in the nation, as designated by the World Health Organization and AARP.”
Hochul said, "Our older community is in desperate need of support, and using federal stimulus funds will strengthen our aging services network, and extend support for those who need it. Many essential services will continue operating – food and medication delivery, transportation, combatting social isolation, and stopping elder abuse and financial exploitation, all while supporting the family members who care for older adults so they can return to work. These needs will continue to persist and grow well beyond the pandemic, but my administration will work tirelessly to provide for our aging population."
Hochul’s team said she is also “working to build on these federal stimulus investments, recognizing that assistance to older individuals and their family caregivers helps maintain their economic and social contributions in the community. New York is leading a $2.7 billion national effort to modernize the Older Americans Act, which is the federal structure of funding and regulations governing state and local aging services programs.”
Under the Older Americans Act, New York's aging services programs are primarily funded by state and county dollars that account for 85% of program costs, compared to a federal contribution of 15%. While this federal share has increased significantly under the American Rescue Plan, Hochul is calling for sustained funding to meet the network's growing responsibilities as the population of older adults increases.
The governor's plan would bring an additional $175 million to New York. The OAA modernization effort would also update what her team called antiquated parts of the act, address lessons learned from the pandemic, and expand and innovate service delivery.
The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) works in partnership with a network of 59 area agencies on aging that provide vital support services in every county, including home-delivered or congregate meals, nutrition counseling and education, respite, legal services, personal care, case management, transportation, health insurance counseling, and advocacy resources for residents of long-term-care facilities. The network includes 1,176 contractors, 777 senior centers, 819 congregate meal sites, 315 central kitchens and 2,057 home-delivered meal routes.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, "While the pandemic has altered every facet of life in New York, it has had a particularly profound effect on the lives of older New Yorkers, taking too many from us and leaving many unable to meet basic needs, in fear that they may lose their homes and isolated from their communities. When I led the American Rescue Plan to passage in the Senate, I specifically fought for flexibility in state-allocated provisions so New York could address issues that have been amplified as a result of the COVID pandemic, especially for our most vulnerable residents like seniors. We must continue to support our older New Yorkers as we recover from the pandemic, and I'm pleased to work with Gov. Hochul to deliver assistance for our residents who need it most."
NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said, "The pandemic revealed to the nation how vitally important the aging network is in providing services, slowing the spread of the virus, keeping people safe and saving lives. We have almost 50 years of experience in working with older adults to get them benefits they deserve, find jobs, stay healthy and provide services that keep them where they want to be – in their homes and communities of choice – for an average service cost per-person of under $10,000 per year. We all must play our part to combat ageism and stereotypes and recognize how valuable this population is. The governor's leadership is the reason our network is so successful, and I am so proud of their role, particularly during the pandemic response, for continuing to innovate and work hard meeting needs during a difficult time."
AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said, "Virtually all older adults want to remain in their homes and communities, and keeping them healthy and safe is paramount. AARP New York thanks Gov. Hochul for ensuring this federal aid is helping older New Yorkers around the state, and continuing to make New York – the first state to join the AARP/World Health Organization Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities back in 2017 – livable for all ages."
NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said, "Nobody has paid a higher price to the COVID-19 pandemic than older New Yorkers, both in loss of life and in disruption to services that help seniors live with dignity. Throughout the pandemic, county offices for the aging were on the front lines, ensuring older New Yorkers continued to have access to food and assisting with COVID vaccination initiatives, just to name a few. We thank Gov. Hochul for distributing this funding as this is critical to supporting the essential frontline work that counties do to support older New Yorkers and their families and help us work together – counties, the state, and our local community service agencies – to help keep our seniors safe and healthy."
Association on Aging in New York Executive Director Becky Preve said, "The Association on Aging in New York applauds the necessary and substantial investments in aging services that these funds provided. The network of 59 area agencies on aging are vital to older adults and their families health, safety and wellbeing, and COVID 19 increased the demand for services by almost 100%. Our network was empowered and enhanced with additional funding, and our partners at New York State Office for the Aging worked diligently to ensure these funds went expeditiously to providers in the community. We are thankful to Gov. Hochul and her longstanding support to the aging network, and her commitment to ensuring older New Yorkers are able to age with dignity, autonomy and respect."