LiveOn NY testimony provided for the record:
New York City Council
Committee on Finance, Chair, Council Member Daniel Dromm
March 6, 2019
Preliminary Budget and Oversight Hearing
Thank you Chair Dromm and the Finance Committee for the opportunity to testify on how we can work together to make New York a fair city for all ages. LiveOn NY also thanks Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson, DFTA Acting Commissioner Caryn Resnick, Aging Committee Chair Margaret Chin and the entire City Council for their consideration of needs of older adults in the FY20 budget.
With a base of more than 100 community-based organizations, LiveOn NY’s members provide core services that allow older adults to thrive in their communities, including senior centers, congregate and home‐delivered meals, affordable senior housing, elder abuse prevention services, caregiver supports, transportation, NORCs and case management. DFTA’s network provides services to over 50,000 older adults daily. Let’s be clear, these services aren’t just nice to have: studies have shown that services such as senior centers, home delivered meals and others are key to positively affecting health impacts and preventing isolation.
LiveOn NY recognizes and is encouraged by initial investments in senior services by the de Blasio Administration and ongoing investments by City Council. That said, the DFTA budget still accounts for less than 1% of the total city budget, a point that is only exacerbated by the fact aging New Yorkers are the now fastest growing demographic. Further, New York City spends 20% below the national average on senior meals – that means they are only paying for 4 out of every 5 needed meals. This does not reflect fairness for older New Yorkers, senior service staff and nonprofits that serve older New Yorkers. In order for New York to truly be the fairest big city, it must be a #FairCity4AllAges. Fairness does not have an age cutoff.
LiveOn NY’s priorities are attached to our testimony, and are briefly highlighted them below.
Invest $20 million in Senior Center Meals and Kitchen Staff
Senior centers provided 7.6 million senior center meals in FY17
30,000 seniors visit seniors centers daily
56% of seniors report that meals eaten at the center makeup ½ or more of their daily food intake
NYC currently funds senior meals on the average at 20% below the national average funding 4 out of every 5 meals, with nonprofits picking up the rest of the costs.
In 2008-2013 alone, the cost of food increased by 11% according to the Consumer Price Index while nonprofits struggle to keep pace.
Food costs, raises for kitchen staff and kitchen equipment and maintenance costs were specifically excluded from the model senior center budget funding last year, leaving a void in budgets despite the fact that kitchens are core to a senior center.
Over 50% of older New Yorkers are foreign born according to a recent Center for an Urban Future study, reflecting a significant need for meals that are culturally appropriate to an array of backgrounds, which brings an underfunded fiscal impact. In 2015, DFTA stated that, “in DFTA’s HDML network, each catered Kosher [meal] is on average $1.38 more than non-Kosher catered meals.” Similar to Kosher meals, Halaal, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, or other cultural or nutritional needs have an associated cost-increase.
A citywide RFP for senior centers is expected in the near future.
$20 MILLION WILL FUND:
Increase for raw food costs, including funding for culturally competent meals
Increase in costs for disposables to serve food
Increase in funds to support fair salaries for kitchen staff and to fully staff kitchens to address numerous responsibilities including food preparation, cooking, serving meals, menu planning and submissions, inventory, ordering, accounting, managing volunteers and numerous other responsibilities required to operate a kitchen.
Repairs and maintenance for critical kitchen equipment including ovens, refrigerators and HVAC systems. These costs and needs are heightened in NYCHA senior centers and programs, which have critical additional infrastructure and repair needs.
Funding for critical inspections and services that are required annually or several times a year, including extermination, grease trap cleaning and grease removal, hood cleaning, fire suppression systems, maintenance of HVAC systems and refrigerators and freezers as well as treating sewage back up problems and security alarm service and maintenance.
All DFTA senior centers, including the 38 additional programs were not evaluated in the “model senior center” budget process last year, should receive funding for meals.
Expedite the Additional $10 million “Promised” for Senior Center Staff and Programs
DFTA allocated the first $10 million in model senior center budget funding late in FY19 and the second $10 million is “promised by FY21.” As noted, this funding specifically excluded meals and meal staff. We see no reason for the city to hold this funding. It should be expedited as soon as possible.
Invest $15 Million in Home Delivered Meals
This year, providers will distribute over 4.6 million home delivered meals
The majority of seniors utilizing the program are women, living alone, receiving meals that on average account for ½ or more of their total food for the day
Nationally, 59% of meal recipients live alone – and the person delivering the meal is often the only person they will see that day
Seniors are underenrolled in SNAP - among those living with hunger, the under-enrollment rate of SNAP benefits is around 40%
NYC reimbursed providers 20% below the national average for home delivered meals
A citywide RFP is expected for home delivered meals in the near future
$15 MILLION WILL FUND:
Increase for raw food costs, including culturally competent meals
Increase in costs for disposables to serve food
Critical increase in funds to support fair salaries for home delivered meals staff, who are critical to the human interaction for home delivery
Funds for equipment, kitchen needs and food preparation
Invest $10 Million for Repairs, including funding for NYCHA Senior Programs
Senior Centers have infrastructure and repair needs, often that arise in an emergency, however there is not set funding or process to request these funds and centers are often confused and unaware of how to address such needs. These issues are exacerbated in the nearly 100 DFTA programs that operate in NYCHA community spaces which offer critical programs for older adults. The city should invest $10 million to provide funding for DFTA senior center and program infrastructure needs, and for accessible funding for emergency repairs and conditions, particularly in the 100 DFTA NYCHA Senior Centers and Clubs.
Invest $5 Million for Service Coordinators in Senior Housing
87% of senior of seniors would prefer to age in their homes. Research has shown a service coordinator located in a senior building is a proven cost-effective way to support seniors in their community, reducing hospital & nursing home costs. Seniors at Selfhelp Community Services were found to have significant healthcare savings: Selfhelp residents were 68% less likely to be hospitalized compared to seniors in the same zip codes, representing an average savings of $3,937 per person, per hospitalization.
Investing $5 million in a citywide Service Coordinators Program would would provide one full time and one part time service coordinator at nearly 40 new or existing affordable senior housing buildings to provide culturally competent information and support. Promotion of overall health and wellness the interconnection of services through the co-location of services can mean the difference between successfully aging in place verses experiencing costly hospitalizations or a move to a nursing home. Service coordinators provide culturally and linguistically competent opportunities for seniors in affordable housing buildings. Qualified social workers in these buildings can help older adults to access benefits, provide referrals to other services as needed, including home care, and combats isolation by connecting residents to socialization opportunities and other local resources, all of which promote healthy aging in the community.
Invest $1 Million for Case Management
There are over 1,000 seniors on case management waitlists citywide. LiveOn NY greatly appreciates the investments in FY18 which are beginning to address waitlists, as well as funding added by Council in FY19, but the need continues to grow. We must continually build this system to serve today’s need and the needs of the future. Additional funding is needed to reduce caseloads, which already very high at an average of 65. Funding is also needed to serve frail, homebound seniors on waiting lists so that a social worker is available to visit them at home, assess their needs and provide ongoing services. MSW compensation, as well as multilingual staff needs to be funded to ensure there is a professionally trained social worker who can work with immigrant and diverse populations and complex situations. Funding growing need and agency infrastructure are cornerstones to strengthening the case management system citywide. Case Management is a key program that services seniors that are not Medicaid eligible but still need these services, and it is vital to sustain this program.
No PEGs for DFTA
Across the board reductions through the recently announced Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) disproportionately and unfairly affect small agencies, such as DFTA, which receives such a small portion of the city budget to begin with. To avoid cutting direct services to older New Yorkers and the staff that serve them, DFTA should not be subject to PEGs.
Council Restorations and Investments in Senior Services Through Schedule C
City Council has long been a staunch supporter of city and district wide senior services programs through allocations in Schedule C. We thank you for your investments and advocate for full restoration for all Senior Service Programs funded in Schedule C. These include NORCs, Support our Seniors, SuCasa, Senior Centers for Immigrant Populations, Health Aging Initiative, Social Adult Day, and others.
Age Friendly Commission
LiveOn NY sits on the Age Friendly Commission and knows the importance of the Commission and its work groups. It is critical to convene thought leaders from across disciplines working on these critical issues. LiveOn NY supports continued funding for $100,000 for the Age-Friendly Commission to support its critical work, as well as an additional $250,000 to support the ongoing and new work groups for the commission for a total of $350,000.
Continued Investments in Human Services Sector
LiveOn NY is a member of the Human Services Advancement Strategy Group (HSASG).
The human services sector of our City is in crisis. Providers have long been sounding the alarm about the impact of the chronic underfunding of government contracts, and now we have reached a breaking point. Without a crucial investment on our current contracts, my organization will have to reevaluate how we can engage with the City to provide crucial services to our communities. As things currently stand, we can no longer carry the deficit of our City contracts.
The gap between what the City funds on human services contracts and what providers can supplement with private and philanthropic dollars has grown too wide. It is vital that no cuts are made to human service programs as part of the mandated budget reductions and the chronic underfunding of the sector is rectified.
The sector is united in asking the City Council to include in their budget response a request for the Mayor to invest $250 million dollars to fill the gap between provider’s indirect costs and the contract reimbursement rates from the City. The new Health and Human Services Cost Policies and Procedures Manual, which was developed alongside Deputy Mayor Palacio, lays out standardized indirect costs for our sector. However, without increased funding to address the gaps this manual displays in our contracts, the fiscal crisis we are facing remains unaddressed. Based on numbers provided by the Office of Management and Budget, $250 million should cover the costs to fully implement this manual.
While we understand the driving narrative around this budget is mandated budget cuts, there is money to go around. The City has made massive investments in areas including city staff and infrastructure while the needs of the human services sector have gone largely ignored. It is time to take the state of emergency facing this sector seriously and prioritize the needs of organizations that provide an estimated 2.5 million New Yorkers annually with critical services including after-school programs, supportive housing, homeless services, job training, and mental health services.
LiveOn NY looks forward to working with Mayor de Blasio, City Council, DFTA, all city agencies to make New York City a fair city for all ages and better place to age through a strong network of community based services.