Protecting New York’s Seniors
Published: October 17th, 2016
By: Sen. James Seward

For generations, New York’s seniors have made enormous contributions to our local communities. We need to support our senior citizens and ensure that they remain here and are able to live full and vibrant lives. During the 2016 legislative session, I helped approve record funding for several initiatives to enhance the quality of life for our seniors.

EPIC Program: New York’s outstanding Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program will be fully funded at $131.5 million to cover the prescription drug needs of our seniors.

Property Tax Relief: The senate took the lead in approving property tax rebates for seniors, as well as full funding for the Enhanced STAR program which provides crucial tax relief to thousands of New York’s seniors. It was also the senate that successfully pushed for record funding for our local schools which also helps hold the line on local property taxes.

Senior Initiatives: The state budget increased support for a wide array of programs and initiatives that serve seniors:

$1.4 million for elder abuse prevention initiatives;

$28.9 million for Community Services for the Elderly Program;

Story Continues Below Adverts

$26.6 million for Alzheimer’s programs;

$172,000 for the New York Foundation for Seniors Home Sharing and Respite; and

$63,000 for the Senior Action Council Hotline.

The senate also passed several bills that would directly aid senior citizens. Unfortunately, the state assembly failed to take action on these measures, however, I believe they all hold substantial merit and I will continue to pursue them next year.

Preventing Seniors from Physical Abuse and Financial Exploitation

The senate passed legislation (S.6922) to build upon the state’s efforts to prevent elder abuse and maltreatment. The bill would expand a successful pilot program statewide to enable multidisciplinary teams to investigate reports of suspected elder abuse and maltreatment. The program would allow social services districts to develop multidisciplinary investigative teams, which would include representatives from adult protective services; law enforcement; the district attorneys’ offices; banks and financial institutions; as well as forensic accountants; physicians or other medical providers; mental health professionals; and victim advocacy personnel to investigate reports of suspected elder abuse or maltreatment.

Creating a Comprehensive System to Report Elder Abuse

Elder abuse and maltreatment have become a pervasive and devastating reality for many of our state’s senior citizens. The senate passed a measure (S.8033) to create a state-wide central registry, within the Office of Children and Family Services, for the reporting of elder abuse and maltreatment. The bill would also establish an Elder Justice Coordinating Council to conduct community forums to gather information to identify, investigate, and intervene in cases of elder abuse and maltreatment.

Home Repair Help for Seniors

The senate approved a measure (S.7828) to create the Residential Emergency Services to Offer Home Repairs to the Elderly (RESTORE) program, which would provide financial resources to assist income qualified senior homeowners (age 60 and over) with the cost of emergency home repairs. Eligible senior homeowners could apply through local RESTORE programs for emergency home repair services of up to $10,000.

Increase Tax Savings for Retirees

The senate passed a bill (S.2903) to double the exempt amount of private pensions and retirement income, increasing it for the first time since 1981 and saving approximately $275 million annually. For 35 years, seniors have been able to claim the first $20,000 of pension or retirement income as exempt income. This bill increases that exempt amount to $25,000 for the 2017 taxable year, to $30,000 for the 2018 taxable year, to $35,000 for the 2019 taxable year, and to $40,000 in the 2020 and subsequent taxable years. This would provide tax relief to more than 377,000 seniors, would save taxpayers hundreds of dollars, and encourages retirees to remain in New York State during their retirement years.