There is no doubt that New York State is facing a fiscal crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in decades. As a result, Governor David A. Paterson has proposed a budget that includes drastic spending cuts. Having served as member of the New York State Assembly for over fifteen years, I certainly understand the need for the state to pass a balanced budget. At the same time, there are some services that we simply cannot afford to lose and must find a way to pay for.
Senior centers fall squarely in that category.
Governor Paterson proposes to cut over twenty-five million dollars 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 to access Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, and other critical benefits. Senior centers’ programming creates social interaction that helps keep seniors mentally healthy. Senior centers provide influenza vaccines, blood pressure screenings, and hearing tests. They serve over five thousand meals per day, sometimes to seniors who would otherwise go hungry. Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, New York City Department for the Aging, has stated that about ninety percent of people who visit senior centers are poor. The proposed cut would literally 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.
Councilman Mark Weprin